At age 12, I was an adventurous kid drawn to nature’s superfoods and the great outdoors. One cloudy afternoon, a girlfriend and I hiked into the Los Gatos foothills, where grass wasn’t manicured and horses ran free. Trespassing on pristine grounds and picking wild berries off plants was an exciting novelty until it began to pour down rain. But once we were home the escapade hadn’t even started.
I took a hot shower and cleaned off the mud on my body. Later, at night, I scratched my cheek, arms, and legs because for some unknown reason they itched. By morning when I awoke, red bumps and blisters were visible from head to toe.
“Poison oak,” my mother announced after I told her where I had gone the day before. By dinnertime my face was red and one of my puffy and painful eyelids was swollen shut. My two siblings chanted, “Cyclops,” insinuating I looked like the spooky one-eyed creature in mythology. I ran into my bedroom, onto the bed, and hid underneath the covers.
Later, my mom consoled me. She sat on the bed and said, “Ignore your brother and sister.” She handed be a bowl of homemade blueberry crumble. But the berries were store-bought. The comfort food dessert was warm as she told me a story about the Greeks and Romans. Evidently, they used wild berries for medicinal powers. I savored the berry treat, believing the bumps would heal in time. And they did.
This recipe is inspired by my mom’s gift of baking and nurturing during the best and worst of times.
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and chopped or sliced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
½ cup white granulated sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup European style butter, salted, melted
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup oats (optional)
Granulated white sugar and cinnamon (to taste)
½ cup nuts, chopped (I used lightly salted cashews when crumble is baked)
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
Honey (to taste) (I used local honey to help fight seasonal allergies)
Basil or mint sprigs for garnish (optional)
In a bowl place berries. (Blot dry first.) Add juice, sugar, flour, and spice. Set aside. In another bowl combine flour, butter, sugar, and oats. Put fruit mix in ramekins. I filled two to the rim. Top fruit with crumble topping. Sprinkle with sugar mixture. Place in a shallow pan and fill with water a few inches the way you do with custard. Bake about 40 to 50 minutes. It’s done when topping is golden brown and fruit is tender and bubbly. Best served warm in the morning or night. Serves 2 to 4. It is best topped with plain Greek yogurt mixed with honey (to taste). Or use a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla gelato (if the weather warms up). Garnish with basil or mint.
So, is this yummy, nostalgic berry crumble as exciting as chasing wild horses and picking wild berries? Nah, probably not. But it is sweet and savory, not to forget blueberries are nutrient-dense. There is no need for you to forage berries in the wilderness. Just go to your favorite local supermarket and grab a container of blueberries. Then, whip up this recipe with its sweet and juicy berries from Mother Nature.
Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, Superfoods, Essential Oils, Herbs and Spices) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is http://www.calorey.com.