Eat Local! Blueberries
June 30, 2016
Blueberries – bursting with color, flavor, and nutrition, this perennial flowering bush has a lot to offer during the summer months! Although blueberries may be harvested from April through August (depending on location), their peak time in North Idaho is June and July. Blueberries come from the Vaccinium genus of shrub plants, which also includes cranberries, bilberries and huckleberries. Blueberries are native to North America and were used by Native Americans for food and medicinal purposes for centuries prior to their first harvesting and commercialization for widespread consumption in 1916. In fact, Lewis and Clark observed native Indian populations utilizing smoked blueberries as a method of preserving to flavor meats and flour pastes. Blueberry roots and leaves were often dried and used as an antispasmodic tea and relaxant during childbirth.
Blueberries deliver a hefty dose of vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese, a micromineral that supports many cellular functions in the body. This little berry packs a powerful punch of anthocyanins, giving it a rich, dark blue/purple hue and acting as an antioxidant in the body. Blueberries have been shown to prevent damage to aging cells and improve cognitive function, lower blood pressure, and offer cancer preventative and cardioprotective benefits. They also have a relatively low carbohydrate content compared to other fruits of equal portions, and coupled with their high fiber content, may aid in optimal blood glucose levels in people with diabetes.
Blueberries contain a waxy bloom on the outside, which preserves the phytochemicals within. Once this bloom is washed off, the skin begins to break down, so be sure to wash berries only right before eating as they will become soggy and moldy if left to sit in moisture. The nutrient content of fresh blueberries is higher than that of cooked blueberries, as temperatures greater than 350 degrees Fahrenheit may destroy some antioxidants. On the flipside, research has shown that freezing blueberries does not destroy antioxidants and is a great way to preserve flavor and nutrients in the off season.
Blueberries have been identified on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list as having a high amount of pesticide residues, so opt for organically grown whenever possible. Freshly picked blueberries will last 3-5 days in the fridge, or may be rinsed and frozen right after picking.
Try this refreshing blueberry smoothie on a hot summer day as a “pick me up.” The avocado adds a rich, creamy indulgent texture while the coconut water delivers hydration and natural electrolytes.
12 oz. (1 ½ cups) unsweetened coconut water
2 large leaves of kale (torn into pieces)
½ cup fresh organic blueberries
½ of 1 small avocado
2 ice cubes
Top with a sprinkling of chia seeds for a boost of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids!
Recipe by Natalie Colla
Article by Natalie Colla, RDN, LDN. Natalie is a graduate of the University of Idaho and Registered Dietitian at Panhandle Health District. She takes a “whole person” approach to health and believes in utilizing a combination of behavioral counseling, stress reduction, exercise, functional foods, and individualized diet therapy to achieve total wellness for a variety of chronic diseases.