Is there anything more captivating to the eye or the palate than a blueberry?
Their deep rich color is a fitting symbol of all the nutrition bursting inside.
And since every July is National Blueberry Month, we have 31 days to celebrate this tiny nutritional powerhouse.
All About the Blueberry
Blueberries are beautiful, bountiful and utterly unique.
The blue color comes from the fact that blueberries contain anthocyanin. A flavonoid, anthocyanin contributes significantly to the blueberry’s numerous health benefits.
The peak of the blueberry season occurs between mid-June and mid-August.
Almost 50 percent of the world’s blueberry supply comes from the United States, with California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington emerging as the top 10 producers.
The blueberry is one of the few fruits native to North America; it belongs to a perennial flowering plant group classified under the name Vaccinium.
Of this group (which includes hundreds of plants), only three are commercially produced:
- The Northern Highbush: This variety thrives in North America where modern highbush blueberries are cultivated. These are the blueberries you most commonly find at farmer’s markets and grocery stores.
- The Southern Rabbiteye: This type of blueberry grows in the Southern US. It gets its name because the blossom end of the berry (called a calyx) resembles a rabbit’s eye.
- The Lowbush or Wild Berry: This blueberry flourishes as far north as Arctic North America and only grows 1 to 2 feet high. Lowbush blueberries are smaller, sweeter blueberries that are often used in jams and juices.
The Blueberry and Its History
Blueberries were beloved by the Native American tribes living in the Northeast who were convinced that the blueberry plant had special powers.
Since the blossom end of each berry (called the calyx) forms a perfect 5-point star, elders believed that the Great Spirit had sent ‘star berries’ to help feed their children during famines.
Parts of the blueberry plant were used as medicine. They would make tea from blueberry plant leaves, believing it was good for the blood, and treat coughs with blueberry juice.
They also used the juice of the blueberry as a dye for clothing and baskets.
It was in the early 20th century that blueberries began to be cultivated rather than simply being picked from the wild.
The cultivation was a result of the cooperation between a farmer’s daughter named Elizabeth Coleman White and USDA botanist Frederick Vernon Coville. In 1911, they started to crossbreed the most desirable wild blueberry plants they could find in order to create entirely new blueberry varieties.
Their hard work paid off, and they succeeded in creating the first-ever commercial crop in 1916.
Why Are Blueberries so Good for Your Health?
Just eating a quarter cup of blueberries every day can have a big impact on your overall health and well-being. They are rich in antioxidants and a source of fiber, vitamins C, K, and B, and manganese.
According to research, the blueberry ranks the highest when it comes to its capacity to destroy free radicals in the body (compared to 60 other fruits and vegetables).
Like other berries, the blueberry may help prevent and fight cancer, reduce the risk of heart and lung disease, boost memory, slow brain decline, and improve sleep.
If you live in one of the states where blueberries are produced, you might want to visit a nearby farm and take a look at blueberries in the making.
But the absolute best way to celebrate National Blueberry Month is to eat them!
You can simply enjoy them plain, add some to your oatmeal, or try a new recipe like our Beautiful Blueberry Salad.