Did you know July is Blueberry month? This is the month when we should truly pay tribute to the little berry that “packs a punch”. Since it is in season it can be picked today and on your plate tomorrow. Like most produce, the quicker it gets to your plate the greater the nutritional value.
I have a special connection with blueberries, as a child I remember picking blueberries with my mother at our summerhouse. Making our way down the field amongst all the wild bushes and trees till we met up with massive amounts of wild blueberries bushes. My mother would give us a small container so we could place the berries into it, but there were always a few going into my mouth (half of what I picked) and some on the ground. The tradition continued when my own children were old enough to walk, and to this day it is one of their favorite memories too.
The Blueberry is over 13,000 years old and is indigenous to North America. Native Americans called it the “star berry” because of the blossom end of each berry the calyx that forms the perfect 5 point star. The Native Americans also gave blueberries to the pilgrims to help them get through their first winter.
Nutritionally, what’s not to like about the blueberry? It has a high content of vitamin C, which plays a role in the formation of collagen, maintains health gums and capillaries. Vitamin C also promotes iron absorption and a healthy immune system. Blueberries are high in manganese, which plays a role in bone development and helps convert the proteins, carbohydrates and fats from food into energy. Who wouldn’t like more energy?
Blueberries boast only 80 calories per cup and are high in fiber as well as containing phytonutrients. The phytonutrients gives it the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is related to a number of conditions including cardiovascular disease, cancer and age related cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s.
When purchasing Blueberries look for firm, dry, plump and smooth skin. They should not have leaves or stems attached. The color should be deep purple blue to blue black. Reddish blueberries aren’t ripe and won’t ripen after they are picked, but you can use them when cooking.
Blueberries can be found in muffins, desserts, cookies, breads and smoothies. Cooking with blueberries can be fun and you should explore different ways to incorporate them into your own recipes, such as salads and sauces.
Remember blueberries react to the proper ph. When exposed to lemon juice or vinegar they will turn a reddish color. When there is too much baking soda in a batter they will turn a greenish blue. When using frozen blueberries add them to the baked product last and gently fold in avoid them from getting mushy.