Unlike most fruits, the blueberry was not introduced to the United States by Europeans or other immigrants. Blueberries are native to North America, and it was the Native Americans who introduced European settlers to this wonderful, healthful fruit.
Blueberries were important to the Native Americans. They were eaten fresh, added to soups and stews, dried for the winter and used for medicinal purposes, making strong teas from the roots. American settlers learned quickly about blueberries, and early medical books show blueberry tea was used by wives of settlers during labor. Blueberry juice was used for “old coughs” and tea made from Wild Blueberry leaves was believed to be a good tonic to help purify the blood.
New research provides proof that the Native Americans and settlers were correct in believing that blueberries held great healing power. Ranking #1 in antioxidant levels, blueberries are most likely the best food to eat for cancer prevention. The total antioxidant capacity of blueberries is twice that of spinach and three times that of oranges. This extraordinary fruit is also rich in pectin, a soluble fiber that has been shown in several research studies to be effective in lowering cholesterol. Blueberries are also rich in vitamin A and C.
Blueberries can be effective in combating the “runs”, because they contain anthocyanin. This substance has mild antibiotic properties, especially against intestinal bacteria that cause diarrhea.
Even though, blueberries have a short season, they are almost always available in your grocery store. They are grown throughout the US (35 of the 50 states), with local seasons ranging from early Summer to the Fall. And thanks to today’s modern transportation methods, blueberries from South America are available throughout the Winter.
At the market
Blueberries are available in many forms: fresh, frozen, juice, puree, concentrate, and dried. Fresh blueberries should be firm, dry, plump, and smooth-skinned. Ripe berries are deep- purple blue to blue-black. Stay away from containers of berries with juice stains, or that contain moldy, soft, watery, or wrinkled fruit.
Store covered in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Don’t wash blueberries until to you are ready to use them.
Tips to add more blueberries into your meals
Freezing fresh blueberries: While blueberries are available year round, they are least expensive when they are in season in your area. Take advantage of your local crop year round, by freezing blueberries. That’s right, blueberries freeze very well. To freeze blueberries: Do not wash them. Lay a single layer of blueberries on a cookie sheet (or flat pan) and freeze them. Once frozen, packed the berries into containers or freezer storage bags. This method makes it is easy to grab a handful of berries from the freezer for pancakes, smoothies, etc. Wash them before using.
Blueberry pancakes: A weekend family favorite. To prevent your batter from turning purple and for easier flipping, add the blueberries as soon as the batter has been poured on the griddle.
Looking for something different to serve for dessert? Try this soup – it is very impressive and quite easy.
- 6 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 2 cups diced mango
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 1 tsp cardamom OR cinnamon
- 1 cup apple juice
Directions: In a saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar, lime juice, and cardamom. Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to a boil; cook and stir until sugar dissolves, about 7 minutes. Transfer to a blender and purée until completely smooth. Stir in apple juice and chill in refrigerator until serving. Serve in martini or margarita glasses, garnished with a dollop of vanilla yogurt.
This delicious and simple relish is great with grilled chicken breast or pork. It is also wonderful on grilled cheese sandwiches.
- 1 cup onions, thinly sliced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup sherry
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes (drained)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions: Add olive oil to saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, and cook until onions are golden, about 5-7 minutes. Add sherry, vinegar, blueberries, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and gently simmer 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer relish to a serving bowl. Stays fresh in the refrigerator for 5 days. Can be frozen for up to 2 months.
Blueberries ‘n Banana Cream
- 1/3 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 1 banana, peeled and sliced
- 2 Tbsp. milk
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1 ½ cups blueberries, rinsed and drained
In a food processor or blender combine all ingredients except the blueberries. Puree until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Pour into a medium size mixing bowl and fold in the blueberries gently. Serve in bowls with a big spoon!
This recipe does not keep well. Refrigerate leftovers and use for breakfast the following day. Makes 4 serving