25 Nov 2019

How to choose blueberries at the supermarket

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How to enjoy blueberries while savouring each fruit without worrying about an unwelcome surprise? Maybe with your eyes closed, or at the cinema! We all wish we could eat freshly purchased blueberries as delicious pralines, maybe a little different from each other, but all tasty and irresistible.

A good tasting experience of blueberry is prepared in two steps: it starts with an informed purchase and is completed with proper storage, which serves to bring the blueberry in the best condition from the supermarket trolley to the moment of consumption.

PURCHASE

Normally blueberries cannot be touched or tasted before purchase because it is sold in sealed packages, which cannot be opened at the point of sale.

This does not allow for a perfect evaluation of the fruit, particularly with regard to certain requirements that are judged primarily by touch, for example texture. The fruit must be at least firm to the touch. A soft fruit is normally an indication of some quality problem.

It is however possible to evaluate the quality of the fruits even without tasting or touching them, taking into consideration other parameters that affect the other senses (sight, hearing, smell).

COLOR

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Colour is certainly one of the most important criteria when choosing which blueberries to buy. In fact, a blueberry with a full, uniform and dark blue colour is a mature blueberry that expresses its best taste.

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Discard any packages with blueberries that aretoo light or have white parts: these are unripe fruits that will never ripen again, either in the fridge at home or at room temperature in your fruit bowl.

BLOOM

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Bloom is a vegetable wax that gives the fruit a protective patina. It is an indication that the product is fresh and has not been overhandled.

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Otherwise the product will look uneven, like mottled; this product will normally be less fresh.

HEALTHCARE

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blueberries must be healthy, intact, not deformed, without foreign bodies such as leaves and stalks.

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In particular, there must be no visible signs of mould (which normally looks like a white beard) or breakdown (undone fruit from which juice often comes out). These are defects that get worse as time goes by, and in a short time you may be forced to throw most of what you have bought in the trash.

PRICE

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Price is only an indicator of quality in markets where the offer of blueberries is segmented. For example, in the UK, up to four lines of blueberries can be found in major supermarkets: standard, discount, premium and organic. In this case, the premium varieties (usually by taste or size) have higher prices with better quality.

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In Italy, however, price is not an indicator of quality when buying blueberries in supermarkets. In fact, except in very rare cases where blueberry organic is offered, blueberries is sold in a single standard reference. The price is simply an indicator of supply and demand. It can therefore happen that high prices are matched by low quality and vice versa.

UNIFORMITY

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A uniform blueberry in colour and size has been carefully selected; this is therefore more likely to correspond to better quality in general.

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When you notice too much difference in the colour and size of the fruit in the package, it is probably fruit that has been hand-picked and packaged by small producers that are not likely to offer guarantees of seriousness. It could also be a product that the supermarket has bought at a particularly low price, forcing the producer to provide a quality that is not sufficiently cared for.

SIZE

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One of the objectives of research in the blueberries sector is to produce ever larger fruit; there are already varieties that exceed 30 mm in diameter, i.e. the size of a large cherry. Often, these newly developed varieties can also provide other superior quality characteristics, including taste.

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But size in itself is not an indicator of either quality in general or taste in particular. While in some cases a large fruit is tastier (e.g. peaches), this is not necessarily the case for blueberries.

SOUND AND MOBILITY

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Try shaking the package slightly. The sound produced should be like a rattle to indicate that the fruit is plump and firm. Also, the blueberries should roll around in the basket individually, not in groups: if they move freely without sticking to each other or to the bottom, they are healthy.

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If, on the other hand, they make a dull sound or come in blocks, the blueberries are not of good quality and have probably exceeded their ideal shelf life. This results in a soft or floury texture, or it is faulty fruit that has 'stuck' to each other or to the bottom due to juice that has leaked from the problem fruit.

START-UP

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The fresh, good quality fruit has a uniformly taut skin.

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On the other hand, fruits with hollows, dents or withering are of inferior quality, certainly not fresh. These will also be less pleasing to the taste.

SMELL

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blueberries is an odourless fruit. This means that the absence of odour is a positive indicator of the quality of the fruit.

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On the contrary, a foreign odour normally indicates a problem; in particular, an acidic odour, which denotes the presence of rotting or rotting fruit, must become suspicious.

PACKAGE WEIGHT

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Weight as a criterion concerns not the quality but the convenience of the purchase. Packages of 250g or more have a price per kilogram considerably cheaper than the usual 125g packs, which currently account for 80% of sales in Italy. This is because they have a lower incidence on labour costs in processing, packaging and transport. A 250g or 500g pack can be stored in the fridge at home and if some fruit is discarded before consumption it will always be cheaper than buying more packs of lower weight.

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The 125g packs are obviously priced at a lower price per pack than the 250g or 500g packs, but the price per kg is often higher, even considerably higher. It is never convenient to choose the lightest pack: you buy more packaging, there is more space and therefore greater environmental impact. Small packages are less sustainable in many ways.

PACKAGE SHAPE

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Prefer packaging where the product is clearly visible. There are baskets with a more rectangular shape where the fruits are arranged in fewer layers: this will help you to better evaluate the quality.

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There are also packages that are too small or too large or not ideal shaped to see all the fruit; expect more surprises if you can't check them properly before buying

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN

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The country of origin, which is indicated on the label by law, does not affect the quality of the fruit, as blueberries have avery good shelf life and can also endure long journeys from the other side of the world to our tables. In addition, blueberries from far away are often on offer at cheaper prices, due to economic reasons linked to market prices and availability.

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Instead, consider the origin if you are concerned about environmental impact and sustainability. In this case, however, be prepared to eat blueberries only a few months of the year, as for most months the blueberries found in Italian supermarkets are of foreign or even extra-continental origin.

VARIETY

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As with apples, blueberries also differs greatly between varieties. There are dozens of varieties all over the world, which differ considerably in terms of taste, size, shelf life and crunchiness.

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Unfortunately, this information, which is essential when purchasing, is not specified on the packaging. Since it is not required by law, supermarkets prefer not to indicate the name of the variety. Only by visiting the farmer directly can you know which variety you are buying and, perhaps, choose more consciously the next time or get advice.

ARRIVED AT HOME

Once we get home after shopping, we can finally open the package and fully evaluate the blueberries purchased.

Is there a "satisfied or reimbursed" clause? Does the Civil Code also protect those who bought fresh fruit? What are the criteria according to which I can claim the product? How should the supermarket reimburse me?

EVALUATION

According to the law there are no tolerances for "products affected by rotting or alterations such as to make them unsuitable for consumption;" (instead, the law provides for "a tolerance of 10% in number or weight of products that do not meet the minimum quality requirements").

This means that no rotten fruit or fruit with such serious defects that it is unfit for consumption is allowed. So if you find one or more rotten blueberries , you can return the whole packet to the supermarket. Remember to take your receipt with you, and of course don't eat the good fruit and only return the three rotten fruits: you won't be entitled to a full refund.

But you can also return the blueberries you have just bought if you are not subjectively satisfied: for example, if you found it floury, acidic or with an unpleasant taste, contact your supermarket's customer service, explain your reasons and ask for a refund. Usually the desire to please the customer outweighs all other criteria and you will be granted a refund.

Refund should be given, according to the law, in cash. If you are offered a voucher, it is up to you to decide whether to accept it or claim the refund in cash.

CONSERVATION

If you are fully satisfied with the product you have bought, put your blueberries back in the fridge immediately. You can store them either in their original packaging or in a covered container or cup. If stored in the bottom drawer of the fridge they will normally last 7-10 days.

As the recommended daily portion of blueberries is around 75g, you can consume half a 125g packet a day. This means that by buying 3-4 125g baskets per week, you will be able to store all of a person's weekly requirements in the fridge, with the assurance that even the last few packs will keep in good condition before the next visit to the supermarket.

Just wash them before you consume them.

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