What: Wild blueberries, which thrive in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario, are much smaller than their cultivated counterparts. Since picking them is labour-intensive, they’re also more expensive, but are prized for having a more concentrated, intense flavour.
When: Generally available from August to early September.
How: Executive chef Charlotte Langley of the Whalesbone Oyster House in Ottawa is featuring the ingredient at the annual Wild Blueberry Festival at Toronto’s Evergreen Brick Works community centre on Aug. 20. Beyond jams and pies, Ms. Langley offers creative new ways to use them.
* Make a blueberry-smoked mackerel with cucumber salad: “Make a quick pickling liquid with blueberries, sugar, salt, black pepper and lime zest. Take your mackerel fillets or whole mackerel and marinate it in the blueberry mixture.
“Then, hot smoke the fish on the barbecue at a really, really high heat. The wild blueberries penetrate the skin, so when it hits the hot grill, it instantly caramelizes and you get a really crispy, blueberry-smoked skin.
“From your garden, pick a ton of fresh basil and young cucumbers to make a salad with shaved raw onions. Put the mackerel on top, and throw on some fresh blueberries to create a bridge between the flavours of the smoked blueberries and the fresh.”
* Blend it with charred watermelon for gazpacho: “Get some big chunks of watermelon and grill them at superhigh heat. Charring the watermelon gives it sort of a meaty quality; it makes it have more body, more density. Throw that in your blender with a few handfuls of wild blueberries, lots of fresh lime juice, lots of honey and maybe some water to thin it all out.
“When you serve it, pour it into a bowl and garnish it with some white truffle oil. You get the charred sweetness of the watermelon, the acidity and the colour and the freshness from the blueberries and then you have the truffle oil, which has an earthy flavour, so it makes it feel like a more savoury dish. It’s like a crazy burst of flavour in your mouth.”