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About Blueberries

Blueberries are flowering plants native only to North America. They are shrubs varying in size from 10 cm tall to 4 m tall; the smaller species are known as "lowbush blueberries", and the larger species as "highbush blueberries". The leaves can be either deciduous or evergreen. The flowers are bell-shaped, white, pale pink or red, sometimes tinged greenish.

The fruit is a false berry 5-16 mm diameter with a flared "crown" at the end; they are pale greenish at first, then reddish-purple, and finally indigo on ripening. They have a sweet taste when mature, with variable acidity. Blueberry bushes typically bear fruit from May through October in the Northern Hemisphere; "blueberry season" peaks in July, which is National Blueberry Month in the United States and Canada.

Although blueberries are native to North America, they are now grown also in the Southern Hemisphere in Australia, New Zealand and South American countries, and are air-shipped as fresh produce to markets around the world.

Beginning in 2005, blueberries have been discussed among a category of functional foods called superfruits having the favorable combination of nutrient richness, antioxidant strength, emerging research evidence for health benefitsand versatility for manufacturing popular consumer products.

Production

Blueberries were first cultivated in the United States by Elizabeth Coleman White in the southern New Jersey village of Whitesbog.[5]

Maine produces 25% of all blueberries in North America, making it the largest producer in the world. Maine's 24,291 hectares (FAO figures) [60,023 acres] of blueberry were propagated from native plants that occur naturally in the understorey of its coastal forests. The Maine crop requires about 50,000 beehives for pollination, with most of the hives being trucked in from other states for that purpose. The wild blueberry is the official fruit of Maine and is often as much a symbol of Maine as the lobster.

Storage:

Fresh blueberries are in their prime from June through August. Select berries that are completely blue, with no tinge of red. That natural shimmery silver coating you see on blueberries is desirable as it is a natural protectant. Blueberries must be ripe when purchased, as they do not continue to ripen after harvesting. Avoid soft, watery or moldy blueberries. Stained or leaking containers are an indication of fruit past its prime.

Keep blueberries refrigerated, unwashed, in a rigid container covered with clear wrap. They should last up to two weeks if they are freshly-picked. Water on fresh blueberries hastens deterioration, so do not wash before refrigerating, and avoid those at your grocer's that are exposed to those mist sprayers used to keep greens fresh.

Blueberries are highly perishable so do try to use them as soon as possible

Preparation and Uses

Blueberries are sold fresh or processed as individually quick frozen (IQF) fruit, purée, juice, or dried or infused berries which in turn may be used in a variety of consumer goods such as jellies, jams, pies, muffins, snack foods, and cereals. Blueberry jam is made from blueberries, sugar, water, and fruit pectin. Usually made from wild blueberries, premium blueberry jam is common in Maine, Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. Beginning around 2003, pure or blended blueberry juice has become a popular product in Canada and the United States.

Nutrition

Blueberries, especially wild species, contain anthocyanins, other antioxidant pigments and other phytochemicals which may have a role in reducing the risks of some diseases, including cancers.

One cup (145 g) of blueberries provides 31% of the Dietary Reference Intake for vitamin C, 16% for dietary fiber, 20% for manganese and 7% for vitamin E,[21] with a low glycemic load.