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Everything You Need To Know About Blueberries

Everything You Need To Know About Blueberries
Reading Time: 9 minutesA life without blueberries would be a real shame, and many of our staple recipes would be missed forever. These miraculous little blue berry fruits are packed with a lot of nutrients and have been said to be one of the healthiest berries to consume. You can eat them plain or enjoy blueberry muffins, blueberry pie, blueberry cobbler, or even blueberry pancakes! The list of blueberry recipes is long, and you won’t be disappointed with your masterpiece when you are finished baking it (if you decide to bake). These healthy little berries hold powerful antioxidants and even better flavor, so grab yourself a handful while you read about their benefits and history!

Blueberry Fun Facts

  • “There are two types of blueberries; highbush and lowbush.
  • Lowbush blueberries are smaller, sweeter blueberries often used for processing into juices, jams, blueberry muffin mixes, and so on.
  • Highbush blueberries are the types you commonly find at grocery stores and farmers markets.
  • Blueberries freeze in just 10 minutes.
  • One cup of blueberries contains 80 calories, 3.6 grams of fiber, and 25 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin C.
  • Blueberries have high levels of antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, the compounds that color blueberries blue.” [1]
  • “April 28th is National Blueberry Pie Day.
  • July 11th is National Blueberry Muffin Day.
  • Blueberries are native to North America where they grow throughout the woods and mountainous regions in the United States and Canada. This fruit is rarely found growing in Europe and has only been recently introduced in Australia.
  • Blueberries are literally bursting with nutrients and flavor, yet are very low in calories. Recently, researchers at Tufts University analyzed 60 fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant capability. Blueberries came out on top, rating highest in their capacity to destroy free radicals.” [2]
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Blueberry History/ Mythology

Did you know that the blueberry is one of the only berries to have Native American origins? These small berries come from the genus Vaccinium, and they were first discovered in North America. [3] The berries were popular among the Northeastern Native American tribes, and they would continually hunt and gather them for both immediate consumption and preservation. They would tell tales to the children, that the five star point on the branches would signify a star, and that the berry would rescue them from hunger in case of a famine. Back in those times,, they did not just eat the berries, but they would also use the leaves as medicine for the blood. The juice of the blueberry was also used as a cough syrup, and the bright blue color was used to dye clothing and baskets. As you can see, these popular little berries served a great purpose in these times.

Around year 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived from other lands, they were trying to adapt to the new lay of the land as well as the food supply. Those who settled near Plymouth were near the Wampanoag tribe, and they were taught how to plant corn and gather native crops such as blueberries for survival. Thank goodness for this tribe, otherwise the pilgrims might not have fared well in the end. They learned to dry and can blueberries for harsh winter months, which later created an important staple during the Civil War fir the soldiers in 1880.

Later on in the early 20th century, there was a woman named Elizabeth White who was determined to cultivate blueberries, because many people believed they could not be domesticated. In the year 1911, she got together with a botanist named Fredrick Coville, and together they were able to create the first commercial crop blueberry bush in the year 1916, which kick started the blueberry revolution around the country. They were honored in 2015 for their efforts and achievements! [4]

Due to White and Coville’s efforts, over 200,000 blueberry seeds were distributed around the country in the year 1942, and its popularity skyrocketed to the top. In year 1971, the famous movie “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” came out into theatres and character Violet symbolized a blueberry in one of Wonka’s wonky factory mishaps. This also sparked more interest in people to eat more blueberries. Later on, when President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated in year 1981, the company Jelly Belly created the first blueberry flavored bean. The candies were at the inauguration, and over 6,000 pounds were consumed on that day.

Blueberries have many presidential ties, and in year 2011, the first blueberry bush was planted in the White House kitchen. To this day, they are found nearly everywhere, and their nutritional profile is limitless. Today, blueberries are regularly consumed in a variety of foods, and greatly benefit your health even if they are inside of a carbohydrate filled muffin! It has been said that the blueberry’s popularity has gone up 500% since the time they were first discovered! Now how is that for popularity? [5]

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Blueberry Nutrition Facts

Where do I even begin here? The nutritional profile for blueberries is out of this world cool. This berry has such a high nutritional profile, it will simply blow your mind! They are related to cranberries, bilberries, and even huckleberries, but still hold their own genetic and nutritional profile. One cup of blueberries contains around 84 calories, and even more antioxidants. Blueberries score 53 on the glycemic index scale, which is low meaning consuming these berries will not negatively affect your blood sugar. [6] What makes blueberries so special is the antioxidants that are present. According to Healthline, “Anthocyanins: These antioxidants give blueberries their color and may reduce the risk of heart disease, Quercetin: High intake of this flavonol has been linked with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease, and Myricetin: This flavonol may have a number of health benefits, and has properties that may help prevent cancer and diabetes.” [6] There are over 15 different types of anthocyanins found in a single blueberry alone, which means it packs a strong antioxidant punch!

The skin of the blueberry is the most nutritional part of the fruit, and is where many of the antioxidants live. Another vital vitamin present in the blueberry is vitamin K, which benefits blood health and prevents blood clotting. Vitamin C is also prevalent, which is great for boosting immune health and skin health. Finally, another notable vitamin present in blueberries is manganese, and it serves to help with amino acid, protein, and carbohydrate processing in the body.

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Blueberry Health Benefits

The health benefits are immense when it comes to eating blueberries, and there is absolutely nothing harmful that can come from it. There have been many studies done on the positive effects blueberries have on cancer in the body, and even prevention too. Some other health benefits to consuming blueberries are, but are not limited to, bone health, immune support, cancer prevention, lowered blood pressure, diabetes management, healthy heart support, digestive support, weight loss, and skin health. [7] Many people love blueberries for their skin support, as they are meant to prevent wrinkles! Say goodbye to the expensive wrinkle cream you might be putting on your face, and grab a handful of blueberries instead.

The collagen found in the skin is supported and maintained by healthy amounts of vitamin C in the body. Blueberries give a boost of vitamin C that contributes to the maintenance of collagen, therefore creating better skin overall. In important news, there have been studies that have researched the possibilities of blueberries being linked with preventing and fighting the nasty Alzheimer’s disease. Robert Krikorian, who led a research team from the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center in Ohio, found,

“Our new findings corroborate those of previous animal studies and preliminary human studies, adding further support to the notion that blueberries can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults.”

In the same studies done, they discovered that blueberry powder helped overall brain power, cognitive performance, and function in individuals who were 68 and older. The study lasted 16 weeks, and the participants were given the blueberry powder daily, which was equivalent to fresh blueberries or a simple placebo powder. He found, “The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) also indicated that this group had increased brain activity.” [8] Just don’t overdo it on consuming blueberries as it could lead to diarrhea, which is never a good thing for anyone!

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Blueberry Varieties

These fruity and healthy blueberries are known to have many different varieties, even though they produce a relatively similar berry. There are five main varieties grown in the United States. The first is lowbush, and it grows exactly as its name suggests. The bushes do not get over 1 ½ feet high, and the plant requires quite a bit of pruning just to get to pick the berries themselves. The second is Northern highbush and it primarily grows in the eastern and northeastern parts of the United States. They grow anywhere from 5-9 feet high, and the different varieties that branch off of the Northern highbush are: Bluecrop, Bluegold, Blueray, Duke, Elliot, Hardyblue, Jersey, Legacy, Patriot, and Rubel. [9] The third type is Southern Highbush, which is similar to Northern but they are found in the southern states and also grow 5-8 feet high. The varieties of Southern Highbush blueberries are: Golf Coast, Misty, Oneal, Ozarkblue, Sharpblue, and Sunshine Blue.

The fourth common variety found is called rabbiteye, and they are found in the southeastern sections of the United States. They can grow anywhere from 6-10 feet high, and they thrive in very hot climates. The different varieties of rabbiteye blueberries are: Brightwell, Climax, Powderblue, and Premier Tifblue. Finally the fifth is called half high blueberries, and they are a mix between the northern highbush and the lowbush. They grow anywhere from 3-4 feet in height, and produce a medium size berry. The different varieties are: Bluegold, Friendship, Northcountry, Northland, Northsky, Patriot, and Polaris.

To be clear, all of these varieties produce blueberries, and there are no other colors that come from the varieties! They are called “blue” for a reason, but their shape, flavor, and thickness of skin might differ throughout the varieties. Some give off a more bitter taste, while others are sweet, plump, and juicy all at one time! Some grow better in hotter climates, while others grow in cooler climates.

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Blueberry Uses

As mentioned above in the history and mythology section, the Indians used to create actual dye for their clothing from the dark purple hue found naturally in blueberries. This is still done today in other cultures, but the main uses for blueberries are to eat and bake with in today’s day and age. Do be careful to not consume too many, as it can lead to diarrhea and an upset stomach! Overdoing such a great fruit is not a great idea if you want to stay away from the bathroom.

Regarding consumption, there is an incredible amount of ways you can use blueberries, whether it is to eat plain, create art, or bake with. Blueberries are not just for pies anymore, and the opportunities are endless when it comes to reaping their benefits. From pies and pancakes to pulled blueberry chicken, you cannot go wrong by choosing them. This Blueberry Muffin Recipe is a must when looking into the uses of this great berry, my mouth is watering as I type. Another to die for recipe is blueberry cinnamon cakes, which yields three different cakes, and they are worth a try! See the recipes below.

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The Sweetest Blueberry Muffins Recipe

By: Food.com

Yields: 12-18 servings

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 375°.
  2. Grease 18 regular-size muffin cups (or 12 large size muffins).
  3. In bowl, mix butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat until pale and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each.
  5. Beat in vanilla, baking powder, and salt.
  6. With spoon, fold in half of flour then half of milk into batter; repeat.
  7. Fold in blueberries.
  8. Spoon into muffin cups and sprinkle topping onto each muffin.
  9. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and springy to touch. [10]
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Blueberry Cinnamon Cakes Recipe

By: Sugar Laws

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the whipped cream and filling:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 4 tablespoons water

Instructions

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Beat together the butter and sugar until combined. Beat in the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and beat until the batter is smooth and no lumps remain.
  2. Pour the batter into an 8″ spring form pan coating with cooking spray, and bake for about 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (if the cake looks like it’s still wobbly, don’t insert the toothpick!).
  3. Allow the cake to cool completely before decorating.

For the whipped cream and filling:

  1. In a medium saucepan, place the blueberries and water on high heat. Mush the blueberries with a spatula as they cook, and cook them until the water is mostly gone and they have a thick, jelly-like consistency. Divide the mixture in half and set aside to cool.
  2. In a large bowl, whip the cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.

To assemble:

  1. Once the cake has cooled, use a pastry ring to cut three 3″ round mini-cakes out of the cake batter. Lift them out of the cake and place on a cutting board or other decorating surface.
  2. For each mini-cake, cut the cake into three thin layers using a serrated knife or a cake slicing wire. Spread all the layers out on your cutting board.
  3. On 6 of the 9 layers, spread a thin layer of blueberry filling using half of the blueberry spread.  Top the blueberry spread with a thick layer of whipped cream.
  4. Stack three of the blueberry/cream-topped layers on top of the other three blueberry/cream-topped layer (making three two-layer mini-cakes). Use the remaining plain cake layers to top the others.
  5. In another bowl, fold the other half of the blueberry spread into the remaining whipped cream. Spoon the blueberry whipped cream into a piping bag and pipe it out onto the tops of the plain cake layers.
  6. Serve! Makes 3 three-inch mini cakes. [11]
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