SUMMIT, NJ — On Sunday, July 9, the Summit Farmers Market held its first blueberry muffin contest. Muffins were judged according to texture, flavor and appearance. Many of those who entered said that picking the best fresh local blueberries was essential to their recipes. Luckily for them, the highbush blueberry is the official state fruit of New Jersey, and the blueberry has a rich history in the state.
According to Wikipedia, New Jersey agriculturalist Elizabeth Coleman White “collaborated with Frederick Vernon Coville to develop and commercialize a cultivated blueberry.” Coville, a botanist, had discovered the importance of soil acidity, that blueberries do not self pollinate and the effects of the cold on blueberries and other plants. His work doubled the size of some of the fruit, and by 1916, he had succeeded in cultivation, making the blueberry a valuable crop in the northeast. White helped to establish the New Jersey Blueberry Cooperative Association in 1927 and offered residents cash for wild blueberry plants with unusually large fruit.
“I went blueberry picking to make my muffins,” contestant Lisa Vecchione of Springfield told LocalSource in an interview at the event. Wearing a bright blue shirt with matching blue hair, Vecchione was a proud baker. “I used almond flour and bought local honey from the Summit Farmers Market. I decorated them with butterfly paper cups because butterflies make blueberries.”
There were a total of 26 entries in the contest. The winning recipe also called for fresh blueberries.
“I usually pick my blueberries in the field,” first-place winner Filip Wilfrid, of Springfield, told LocalSource in an interview at the event. “I only use the best blueberries and all good ingredients. I don’t take any shortcuts. I learned to always bake a fresh batch for the contest because I participated in the blueberry pie contest during previous years and one year it was rainy and cold so my pie was chilled and another lady had a nice warm fresh pie. I bake for my family; my son loves to eat dessert. The recipe was passed around my family and I make sure to follow it carefully.”
This was the market’s first blueberry muffin contest, although a blueberry pie contest has been held during the past three years.
“My family is also a big inspiration for me,” second-place winner Brandon Connors of Martinsville told LocalSource in an interview after the event. “My recipe belonged to my grandma. I also use fresh blueberries from an organic farm. I planned to test my skills in baking, but instead it turned out to be a family day with all the support and love — that’s my secret ingredient.”
Sisters Angela and Ashley Wang also supported each other and combined their efforts to join the contest.
“We experimented with a lot of recipes we found online,” third-place winner Ashley Wang of Livingston told LocalSource in an interview at the event. “We made about five batches before we decided on a recipe which combined all the things we learned from making the previous batches. For example, we learned that if you put too much crumb topping on the muffin, it will sink into it.”
Each of the winners had baked very different muffins, but all were delicious. Wilfrid’s muffin was complete with the crumb topping and appeared to be a winner from the very beginning. Connors’ muffin was sweet and overflowing with fresh blueberries, while Wang’s muffin was cakelike and not too sweet.
“We had a much better turnout for the blueberry muffin contest today than we’ve ever had for the blueberry pie contest that we started three years ago for the market’s 20-year anniversary,” Kathryn Best of Summit told LocalSource in an interview at the event. “The contest winners each received a ribbon and fun money to spend at the market.”