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Botanical Name: Vaccinium corymbosum
Habitat: Blueberries are native to North America. The highbush blueberry varieties were introduced into Europe during the 1930s.
They are now grown commercially in the Southern Hemisphere, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia .
Blueberries are perennial flowering plants with blue– or purple–colored berries. They are usually prostrate shrubs that can vary in size from 10 centimeters (3.9 in) to 4 meters (13 ft) in height. In commercial production of blueberries, the species with small, pea–size berries growing on low–level bushes are known as “lowbush blueberries” (synonymous with “wild”), while the species with larger berries growing on taller cultivated bushes are known as “highbush blueberries”.
The leaves can be either deciduous or evergreen, ovate to lanceolate, and 1–8 cm (0.39–3.15 in) long and 0.5–3.5 cm (0.20–1.38 in) broad. The flowers are bell-shaped, white, pale pink or red, sometimes tinged greenish. The fruit is a berry 5–16 millimeters (0.20–0.63 in) in diameter with a flared crown at the end; they are pale greenish at first, then reddish-purple, and finally dark purple when ripe. They are covered in a protective coating of powdery epicuticular wax, colloquially known as the “bloom”. They have a sweet taste when mature, with variable acidity. Blueberry bushes typically bear fruit in the middle of the growing season: fruiting times are affected by local conditions such as altitude and latitude, so the peak of the crop, in the northern hemisphere, can vary from May to August.
Blueberries are sold fresh or are processed as individually quick frozen (IQF) fruit, purée, juice, or dried or infused berries. These may then be used in a variety of consumer goods, such as jellies, jams, blueberry pies, muffins, snack foods, or as an additive to breakfast cereals.
Blueberry jam is made from blueberries, sugar, water, and fruit pectin. Blueberry sauce is a sweet sauce prepared using blueberries as a primary ingredient.
Blueberry wine is made from the flesh and skin of the berry, which is fermented and then matured; usually the lowbush variety is used.
Blueberries consist of 14% carbohydrates, 0.7% protein, 0.3% fat and 84% water (table). They contain only negligible amounts of micronutrients, with moderate levels (relative to respective Daily Values) (DV) of the essential dietary mineral manganese, vitamin C, vitamin K and dietary fiber (table). Generally, nutrient contents of blueberries are a low percentage of the DV (table). One serving provides a relatively low caloric value of 57 kcal per 100 g serving and glycemic load score of 6 out of 100 per day.
Phytochemicals and research:
Blueberries contain anthocyanins, other polyphenols and various phytochemicals under preliminary research for their potential role in the human body. Most polyphenol studies have been conducted using the highbush cultivar of blueberries (V. corymbosum), while content of polyphenols and anthocyanins in lowbush (wild) blueberries (V. angustifolium) exceeds values found in highbush cultivars.
Blueberry is used for preventing cancer, cataracts and glaucoma and for treating ulcers, urinary tract infections (UTIs), multiple sclerosis (MS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), colic, fever, varicose veins, and hemorrhoids. Blueberry is also used for improving circulation and memory, and as a laxative.
As early as 1927 studies were being published on the health benefits of Blueberry Leaf for controling blood sugar, but the benefit of antioxidants wasn’t commonly known or hadn’t really made it to being a household word until the scientists Ehlenfeldt and Prior published their findings in 2001 on the ORAC, phenolic and anthocyanin concentrations in fruit and leaf tissues of the highbush blueberry. Kind’a heavy readin’ for a simple country girl, but what they basically found was that the leaf was 31 times higher in anthocyanin antioxidants than the fruit. Jest sayin’.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.