Wild About Wild Blueberries
Make blueberries an everyday health habit. As one of today’s superfoods, they are bursting with nutrition and flavour while being very low in kilojoules/calories. They are popular for eating fresh or using in pancakes and smoothies, muffins, jams, as a snack and in many other dishes and desserts.
But like us, you probably didn’t know that not all blueberries are the same. Most blueberries you buy in the supermarket or fresh produce store will be cultivated highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum L). In the US, it’s also possible to buy frozen wild blueberries (V. angustifolium), all year long (GI 53 tested by Glycemic Index Laboratories, Inc). Wild blueberries are smaller, about one-third the size of cultivated and have a more intense blueberry flavor and they retain their shape well in cooking. Wild blueberries are also significantly higher in anti-oxidant activity than their cultivated cousins. In fact, they are richer in anti-oxidants compared with more than 20 other fruits (Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2004, 52: 4026-4037) including cranberries, strawberries, plums, and raspberries. The blue pigment in blueberries called anthocyanins is responsible for most of the antioxidant activity. Blue is good for you!
Wild blueberries are one of three berries native to North America – the others are cranberry and Concord grapes. They thrive in the northern climate of Maine, Atlantic Canada and Quebec where the growers manage the traditional fields and ‘barrens’ to encourage the crop to grow in a sustainable fashion. Although they are may be harvested in a traditional way (with hand-held berry rakes), they are sorted, cleaned and processed using state-of-the-art-technology to preserve their flavor, quality and anti-oxidant qualities. Frozen wild blueberries are shipped world wide Japan, Europe, Korea, Middle East, and Australia. Fresh wild blueberries are only available during the short season locally in Maine and Canada. (Wild blueberries have never been hybridized so don’t ship well in the fresh state or hold up in stores for any length of time.)
Try these quick and easy serving suggestions for fresh and frozen wild blueberries:
- Combine blueberries with a little caster sugar and a tablespoon or two of balsamic vinegar or a little white wine or orange juice. Let the flavours develop for 30 minutes or so at room temperature then serve on their own or with low-fat ice-cream
- Make blueberry smoothies with low fat milk, soy milk or yoghurt for breakfast or a meal in a glass when you are on the run.) If you use frozen fruit you don’t need ice cubes.
- Add 1/2 cup to your morning cereal or yoghurt or yogurt
- Toss them into pancake or waffle batter
- Sprinkle them into your garden salad or fruit salad