It's the English picking season for a sweet, sharp, pop-in-the-mouth fruit crammed full of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Since blueberries are a year-round fixture on supermarket shelves, it may not be obvious that they are at their seasonal best right now. Through winter we've been sold expensive, jetlagged blueberries from the southern hemisphere. Sometimes they do have that marvellous pop-in-the-mouth quality, but more often they are a mushy let-down. In early summer, the more reliable Polish, Spanish and French crop appears. But this month the English blueberry season really hits its stride, offering field-fresh, firm-skinned fruits that can beat all foreign competition with their winning sweet-sharp balance. Weather allowing, the UK season continues until the end of September, even into early October.
Why are blueberries good for me?
Blueberries are a rich source of anthocyanins, flavonoids and phenols, such as chlorogenic acid, quercetin, lutein and kaempferol. These are anti-inflammatories and antioxidants which strengthen the body's defences against free radicals. So eating blueberries could help protect against cancer, heart disease and age-related degenerative diseases. Their store of vitamin C also boosts the immune system.
In a 2008 study, tests of New Jersey blueberries found that organically grown ones had significantly more phenolic and anthocyanin antioxidants, and a significantly higher antioxidant capacity, than the conventionally grown equivalent.
Where to buy and what to pay
Wimborne in Dorset is the pick-your-own hotspot, although many UK growers are planting more bushes. Supermarket guide price: £7.50 a kilo (£12.50 for organic). Most of the Dorset organic crop is sold through Riverford and Abel & Cole's box schemes.
Joanna Blythman is the author of What To Eat (Fourth Estate, £9.99). To order a copy for £7.99 with free UK p&p, go to guardianbookshop.co.uk
Blueberry and sour cream squares
This recipe works well with lots of fruit but is especially delicious with blueberries and very hard to resist.
For the base
250g plain flour
70g icing sugar
225g butter, melted
A pinch of salt
For the topping
5 tbsp flour
Seeds of half a vanilla pod
150ml sour cream
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Butter a 23x25cm tin and line with baking parchment.
2 Mix the flour, icing sugar, butter and salt together and press into the tray. Press up the sides a bit.
3 Bake for 15 minutes or so until golden.
4 While the base is cooking make the custardy topping. Whisk the eggs, sugar, flour and vanilla together until totally smooth, gradually stir in the sour cream and once fully combined add the blueberries. Pour onto the hot crust and return to the oven for 30-40 minutes until the top is totally set. You may want to turn the tray once during cooking.
5 Cool and cut into squares. The first one may be tricky to remove but that's just the cook's perk!
Rosie Sykes is head chef of Fitzbillies (fitzbillies.com) and co-author of The Kitchen Revolution (Ebury Press, £25). To order a copy for £19.99 with free UK p&p, go to guardianbookshop.co.uk
Now's the time to enjoy English blueberries. Photograph: Jill Mead for the Guardian