Blueberries are rich in Vitamin A, B1, B2, C, niacin, and the minerals calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron, fiber, and antioxidants, protects against heart disease and cancer. Antioxidants are believed to be important in preventing loss of memory resulting from Alzheimer's disease. Chemically active anthocyanin pigments found in blueberries can improve failing eyesight and can prevent muscle disintergration resulting from aging. But blueberries are extra special. Like cranberries, blueberries may guard against urinary tract infections by preventing the bacteria that cause them from attaching to cell walls. One animal study even suggest that berries may help prevent age-related cognitive decline, and that blueberries help improve balance. Some Blueberry advice:
Choose blueberries that are firm have a lively uniform hue color with a whitish bloom.
The container should be shaken to see if the berries move freely or not. This is a test to see if they are soft and damaged.
Avoid berries that are dull in color or have a watery texture.
Ripe berries should be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator where they will stay fresh for about a week.
For the best taste and texture they should be eaten with a few days.
Always check and remove any damaged berries before storing them.
Before eating the berries, wash the berries gently in cold water to remove bacteria.
You can freeze blueberries, however, texture and flavor may change slightly.
For a burst of sweetness, add blueberries to cereal or yogurt.
As mentioned, blueberries are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are positively charged molecules that combine with negatively charged free radicals, making them harmless. The USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (See: Chart) measured the antioxidant potential of fresh fruits and vegetables scoring each for its "oxygen radical absorbance capacity" or ORAC. The higher the number, the greater its ability to neutralize free radicals. The ORAC scores are based on a serving size of 3.5 ounces. Here are the top 14 scorers:
Blueberries 2400 Kale 1770
Strawberries 1540 Spinach 1260
Raspberries 1220 Brussels Sprouts 980
Plums 949 Broccoli Florets 890
Oranges 750 Beets 840
Red Grapes 739 Red Bell Peppers 710
Cherries 670 Yellow Corn 400
History of Blueberries
Blueberries were gathered by native Americans for centuries from forests and bogs. Indians tribes had many folklore's developed around them. They used parts of the plant for medicine, tea from the leaves thought to be good for their blood and juice for treating coughs. The juice was also made as a dye for baskets and cloth. In food, berries dried were added to meats (crushed into powder and rubbed into the meat for flavor). Dried berries were also used in making of beef jerky, and added into soups and stews.
Settlers from England arriving in the New World in the 17th century began clearing land for establishing farms. The land was quite different than they left in England and so many farming efforts failed miserably. In 1620, Plymouth was the first location the colonies colonized at and many settlers perished in the first few months. for the survivals, they built homes and farms and with help from the Wampanoag Indians taught the settlers new skills to survive in the new world. The Indians showed the settlers how to plant corn and gather native plants to supplement their food supply. Another native crop was blueberries and the Indians taught the colonists how to gather, dry the berries under the summer's sun and s tore for the winter.
Blueberries were picked by hand until Abijah Tabbutt of Maine invented a blueberry picking machine known as the blueberry rake in 1822.
During the Civil War, blueberries were made into a beverage for the soldiers. In the 1880's a blueberries canning industry began in the Northeast USA.
Blueberries thrive in acid soils and best in soils with a PH between 4 and 5 and require 120 to 160 growing degree days to ripen the fruit. The plants flower in spring with flowers at the tip of canes and the tip of the cluster opening first. The flower is pollinated by bees. The fruit development occurs in about 2 to 3 months after bloom depending on cultivar, weather and plant vigor. Sugar content of the fruit will increase during maturity to about 15% when fruit is ripe. The yields can be as high as 20 tons per acre. Grown in long straight rows and plants trained into shapes that fit harvesting. Some berries are hand picked but the majority are mechanically harvested with specially designed blueberry harvester. The machine is driven or towed through the fired and mechanical rods shake the plants to drop the berries into buckets or conveyors. Machines go through the fields at different times a blueberries do not ripen at the same time.
More than 38 states and provinces of Canada grow blueberries commercially. Industries have also developed in South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. Japan is on the rise in wanting blueberries in their diet receiving more than 500 metric tons yearly and Iceland receiving more than 100 metric tons. In winter, fresh berries come from South America, Australia and New Zealand and freighted across the globe to your local market.
The world's leading producer of blueberries is in North America accounting for 90% production. Harvesting of blueberries runs from mid-April through October with peak period in July. In July 2003, the US Secretary of Agriculture, Ann M. Veneman signed a proclamation announcing July as National Blueberry Month.
Birds, many types of wildlife, such as deer, ducks, and bears love blueberries. The berries provide wildlife a source of food over the long winter months when food is scarce. For the gardener, birds can be a pest, but screen netting can be used to protect and cover the bushes.
Blueberries can be used in blueberry pancakes, blueberry pies, blueberry jam, blueberry juice, frozen and canned blueberries, and drying under vacuum. The berries can last for years to be rehydrated adn eaten in cereal and other things.