As part of fruits and veggies month, Thrive! is featuring fruit and veggies each week. This week the fruit is blueberries, my absolute favorite fruit out there. A whopping ninety percent of adults and children don’t get enough fruits and veggies, so add this one to your shopping list this week!

HISTORY

Blueberries are native to North America, even though they still do have botanical relatives around the world. For thousands of years blueberries have been harvested by Native North American tribes, who used the plant as both food and medicine.

For a while blueberries were unsuccessful at cultivation until 1911 in New Jersey Frederick Colville, botanist, first started experimenting with wild varieties of blueberries in order to create strains more suitable for cultivation.

In 1916, he published Directions for Blueberry Culture where he gave detail about how to use unique soil the blueberries need for cultivation and harvesting. After this, commercial blueberry growing became very popular and spread throughout the US.

This year, we celebrate 100 years of blueberries providing absolute deliciousness.

FUN FACTS 

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  • According to the National Institutes of Health, inhaling the smoke from dried blueberry flowers has been used as a treatment for insanity.
  • East Coasters can trek to the “birthplace of the highbush blueberry” in New Jersey’s Whitesbog Village, the original home of blueberry pioneer Elizabeth White who worked with Colville.
  • In 1822 in Maine, the blueberry rake was invented. A device for harvesting wild blueberries.
  • Blueberries protect against memory loss, so why wouldn’t you eat them? Studies suggest that eating at least one serving of blueberries a week slowed cognitive decline by several years.
  • Maine produces more blueberries than anywhere else in the world.
  • Blueberries can be used as natural food dye. Its been known that American colonists boiled them with milk to make gray paint.
  • Many blueberry-flavored processed foods do not contain any real blueberries (products like bagels, cereals, bread, muffins from brands like Kelloggs, Betty Crocker and General mills). So stick to the real deal and buy fresh blueberries in June and July!!

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SEASON

Blueberries are a very favorite summer fruit. They usually come into the markets starting in June (Florida residents may see harvests as early as March and April) and peaking through August and early September. So hustle to the market before September!

ATTRIBUTES 

The good thing about blueberries is that they can be a bit sweet and tart so adding them to a variety of recipes is very possible.
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  • Cultivated varieties are mostly though now bred for increasing the sweetness and large, plump fruits.
  • Depending on the type, they may be very small or can be large and plump and the color may vary from sky blue to deep, dusky purple.
  • Wild varieties have more concentrated blueberry flavor, while cultivated varieties have a more juicer taste

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WHAT YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR


When shopping around for the perfect summer blueberries look for firm, dry, plump blueberries with smooth skin and no shriveled or moldy bits. Most defianetly pass on those greenish or red blueberries (this usually means that they are under ripe)

Some blueberries can have a white powdery coating called bloom, this is perfectly natural and helps to protect the berries.

Some people believe the perfect blueberry is “dusty” in color and you shouldn’t wash off the dust until you’re ready to dig in. A rinse softens your blueberries, which can quicken the soiling.

NUTRITION

Blueberries are one of the healthiest fruits in the world. They are a great source of Vitamin K, C and Manganese. They are so high in fiber and relatively low in calories so why not treat yourself.

These fruits are naturally rich in polyphenols, antioxidants chemicals that are increasingly linked to big-time health benefits such as cardiovascular health, brain functioning and even prevention of cancer.

All parts of the shrub are used in natural medicine; the blueberry roots that was said to ease the pain of childbirth. Also blueberry leaf tea is high in antioxidants.

STORAGE 

If you plan to eat your blueberries within a day, keeping them out on the counter is perfectly fine. If not, stick them in the fridge unwashed in the container they came in. They should keep for about a week.

HOW TO ENJOY 

Everyone knows how delicious blueberries can be right out of your hand as a great snack or treat — my favorite way to eat them — but they can also be added to recipes to add sweet or tart depth to the dish.

Try blueberries with rich meats, cheeses, in salads (my favorite with arugula salads) and with whole grains like toast in the morning. Also add it to your favorite yogurt or ice cream as a topping.

For some ideas with meats:

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  • blueberries go great with pork and duck especially if you can try some blueberry jam with your next duck dish.
  • Or try it with grilled chicken with a blueberry-basil salsa.
  • If you are looking for a hearty healthy meal that includes blueberries, just try adding them to your favorite quinoa or wheat berries. This salad from Southern Living looks delicious.

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With Cheeses

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  • Pair blueberry preserves or even fresh berries with goat cheese or harder cheese like Manchego for that sweet-salty flavor combo.
  • This salad with feta cheese is easy to make because of simple ingredients and the feta and blueberries make for an interesting taste combination.

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Blueberries are well known for their addition to desserts such as blueberry pie, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes or cobblers and ice cream. This summer when making a dessert try to use all natural fresh blueberries in your desserts to give them a little nutrition and the taste is better too!

Lastly blueberries are a great addition to water (for that natural flavored water people love) or a fruity fun cocktail!