Blueberries are native to North America, and second only to strawberries as the world’s favorite berry. In England, they’re called hurtleberries; in France, they’re known as bluettes. Whatever you choose to call them, make sure to add them to your diet on a regular basis. Blueberries are a true superfood, packed with essential vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants that enhance your health in a variety of ways.
You can enjoy blueberries out of hand, with yogurt, or in cereal, smoothies, and desserts. They’re fun to try in more creative ways, too. Consider a blue cheese and blueberry vinaigrette for your next salad, smoked salmon flatbread with blueberries and goat cheese, or blueberry risotto cakes on baby greens.
Blueberries are round, smooth-skinned fruit, and always dark blue when ripe. The size of the berry, usually about as big as the tip of your thumb, isn’t an indicator of maturity or quality, but wild blueberries are usually smaller than commercially grown varieties.
Fresh blueberries are sold in pint or quart containers. Frozen and canned berries are also available.
Blueberries have a naturally sweet, juicy taste that rarely needs sugar. Some people enjoy combining them with lemon or ginger to enhance their flavor.
Blueberries are readily available in major supermarkets from March through November, and farmers’ markets during peak season. Frozen blueberries are available throughout the year, as is canned fruit for baking.
Although you can enjoy fresh blueberries all summer, high season for blueberries is mid-June through the end of August in both the US and Europe.
Look for plump blueberries that have deep color. If purchasing them in a container, give it a little wiggle to make sure the fruit moves about, which means there’s less chance of damaged berries ruining the whole batch.
Avoid blueberries that are dull in color, shriveled, or have specks of mold.
Some studies indicate that organic fruits and vegetables have a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals than conventionally raised produce.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is an environmental health advocacy and research organization in the United States. From cosmetics to produce, water to cleaning products, EWG provides insight regarding the impact of pesticides, manufacturing practices, and product ingredients on our health and environment. EWG produces a consumer guide ranking 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue. The higher the rank, the lower the residue. In this ranking, the 12 most affected fruits and vegetables belong to the “Dirty Dozen“, and the least affected are part of the “Clean Fifteen“. Blueberries aren’t officially ranked on either list, but are closer to the “Dirty Dozen” list, which means pesticides have likely affected the fruit, so choose organic whenever possible.
The Environmental Working Group and Yoffie Life stress that consuming conventionally grown vegetables and fruits when the organic version is unavailable or financially impossible is far better than eating none at all.
Blueberries can develop mold within 12 hours of being picked, so store unwashed fruit loosely in a covered container in the refrigerator for three to five days. First, take care to remove any damaged berries, otherwise the whole batch will spoil.
You can also freeze fresh berries to enjoy later. Wash them, pat dry, spread them out on a large cookie sheet, and freeze. Once frozen, put them in a zippered plastic bag, and they’ll keep for three to six months.
Unless you’re freezing them, don’t wash blueberries until you’re ready to use them. Place them in a strainer and rinse under cool running water, then pat dry. Some people prefer not to rinse wild or organic blueberries, claiming it’s not necessary.
Vitamin K, specifically vitamin K2, is helpful for regulating and directing dietary calcium in and out of the bones. It is also responsible for proper blood clotting and may aid in protecting the arteries from calcification.
The majority of the manganese in the body is stored in the bones and organ tissue, mainly the liver and kidneys. Manganese is responsible for production and maintenance of sex hormones, blood-sugar regulation, brain and nerve function, calcium regulation and absorption, and carbohydrate metabolism.
This immune-system-building vitamin offers a host of benefits. Vitamin C is an important nutrient necessary for collagen production, and is essential for maintaining the integrity and function of skin and bone tissue. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, fighting free radicals and protecting the heart, kidneys, and lungs from disease. This essential nutrient, often found in large amounts in citrus fruits and raw vegetables, may play a role in reducing systolic blood pressure, reducing heart disease risk.
Thiamine, or vitamin B1, plays an active role in metabolizing carbohydrates into a useable form of energy. B1 also contributes toward proper nerve function and acts as a coenzyme to convert ketones into other coenzymes necessary for cell metabolism.
Riboflavin is helpful for metabolism, aiding in fatty acid energy release. Vitamin B2 is also important for metabolizing proteins, ketone bodies, and carbohydrates.
Blueberries are considered a superfood for a number of reasons. They contain an incredible amount of phytonutrients, which act as anti-inflammatory compounds and high-functioning antioxidants. Blueberries support better cardiovascular and eye health, and recent studies indicate that frequent servings of blueberries help your cognitive function.
- Native Americans used blueberries not only for food, but also as dye for fabrics and baskets, as well as medicine. They also smoked blueberries to preserve them for winter enjoyment, or added them to jerky.
- Canada and the US produce 95 percent of the world’s blueberry crop.
- There are more than 50 varieties of blueberries, including Bonita and Climax, which grow primarily in the southern US, and Friendship and Polaris, which are hybrids that grow in northern climates.