Unusual Ingredients - Unripe Blueberry Achar
T'was just another Summer afternoon, The kids were home for the summer holidays, getting bored, there's only so much summer reading you can force them to do, and the Indian mommy in me could no longer caution them against going out in the afternoon (I've solemnly refused to use that horrid excuse of 'You'll get a dark tan if you stay out in the mid day sun'), and so we decided to head out to Terhune orchards for the blueberry picking. The kids never say no to outings to the orchard, they LOVE the trip there, the cute yellow dogs and the cats, the chocolate crinkle and Snickerdoodle cookies, and they positively trip over grabbing buckets and heading joyfully towards the berry bushes...
... And there it ends, the younger one loses herself in her delightful imaginary worlds where she probably thinks she's hacking her way through virgin Amazon jungle, sighing at every branch that brushes against her legs, picks 2 or 3 berries as if they were a new as yet undiscovered species.
Her older brother in the meantime never gets tired of bragging about how much he has picked and loves to give her (somewhat unsolicited) advice on how big and deep colored the berries should be and that she's doing it all wrong. Net result, plenty of heated arguments and sibling rivalry that lasts for all of 10 minutes. During this time, I'm busy walking up and down the rows looking for the best place to pick.
Just as I get into the rhythm of filling up my container with berries, they join forces and the whining starts ... "mommy, its too hot, there's a spider in the next row, there are bees and flies buzzing", "Mommy can I eat the green unripe berries?".
I stopped at that last question and instead of dismissing it, just shot back 'why don't you try and see'? Given that they are forbidden to eat any pick-your-owns until its properly washed, the older one bit into one and spat it out, his face scrunched up as if he just bit into a sour patch gummy.
And I filled up the remaining space in the bucket solely with the green ones....
Then went back to pick 2 more lbs of the same after specifically asking permission from the Orchard owner to do so.
Unlike Ramps which have a fleeting yet definite window of 2-3 week in early spring, I can't say the same about these because nobody picks unripe berries on purpose. Its always a good idea to specifically ask the farm management for permission to do so. If this catches on as a trend, I'm hoping companies like Melissa's produce can help with the sourcing.
I ended up developing 6 distinct recipes with this years stock of blueberries, one with the ripe fruits and five with the green berries. Please feel free to badger me to upload the recipes in upcoming posts. Here's the first one - a quick pickle in a classic Indian style (like a South Indian quick mango pickle or milaga mangai) . I decided to take a video with my Iphone as I was making the pickle so here goes.
Unripe Blueberry Achar:
1 1/2 cups green unripe blueberries, picked, washed* and dried.
1 tablespoon Cayenne Chili powder
2 tablespoons Crushed mustard seeds
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 teaspoon Asafetida
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
4 oz sesame oil
Wash the berries in a large bowl of lukewarm (bearably hot to the touch) water mixed with 1/2 cup of white vinegar, drain the water and dry the berries.
Combine all the ingredients except the oil in a sterilized Jar and shake well to disperse the spices. Allow the jar to sit for a day to let the flavors combine. The next day, heat the oil until it is smoking hot and pour it over the berries. Allow the pickle to rest in the refrigerator for the flavor to develop.
Serve as a condiment with just about any Indian dish, rice, roti, khichdi, the choice is yours.