My husband and I recently took a relaxing and fun vacation to Maine. The weather was enviable in August coming from hot and humid Charleston. So were the food, landscape and the Mainer’s way of life. Yes, there were plenty of lobsters, haddock, and halibut up there on which to dine.
Also plentiful and tasty were tiny, wild blueberries that seemed to be growing everywhere. One day our curiosity got the best of us and we stopped to see how the berries were picked. As I stood there watching and listening to this “local,” I couldn’t help but wonder, what’s so special about these little fruits and how were they different from the larger kind I buy at my local grocery store?
But since we all know that fruit is an important part of a healthy diet and that you should be consuming the equivalent of 1.5 to 2.5 cups a day, I wanted to find out more. What I found out is these wild blueberries plants are only one of three fruits native to North America. They have grown naturally in the rocky barren fields of Maine and Canada for thousands of years. Unlike commercially produced blueberries, they grow on a low bush and are “raked” off the plant. Most are sent to packing sheds where they are cleaned, frozen and put up for worldwide distribution.
Wild blueberries are a nutrient-rich food packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They have twice the antioxidant capacity of cultivated blueberries because their battle for survival all these years yields a particularly hardy fruit packed with megadoses of antioxidants and medicinal compounds.
However, all blueberries are an excellent source of fiber, vitamin C and K and manganese. And they have the highest antioxidant power of any other fruit. These antioxidant compounds are found in their deep blue colors. The pigments, called anthocyanins, are known for their potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They help us win the battle against cognitive decline, prevent cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, aid in having healthy gut bacteria and reduce the risk of cancer. Need I say more?
So whether you prefer the wild varieties, which are mostly frozen at the height of their ripeness, or the fresh kind you buy at the produce stand or grocery store, consume blueberries and lots of them. Use them in your smoothies, in homemade pancakes and muffins, and on cereal, yogurt, and salads. And, if you want to splurge a little like we did in Maine one evening for dessert, enjoy a slice of wild-blueberry pie chocked full of blueberries, real sugar, and a buttery, flaky pie crust. Yummy!