You may have heard the blueberry labeled as a “superfood” because of its health beneﬁts. Although this is just a marketing term, blueberries truly are great for you. They are packed with ﬁber and vitamin C, and they are an excellent source of manganese (important for bone development). Polyphenols, micronutrients that may have a role in preventing diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, set blueberries apart from other fruits. One group of polyphenols in particular, anthocyanins, give blueberry skins their color and laboratory animal experiments have found that they may reduce the eﬀects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimers and dementia; human studies are currently under way.
Let’s not forget the most important attribute of blueberries: their subtle sweet ﬂavor. Blueberries are a perfect snack food because they satisfy sweet cravings and require so little preparation; just wash and eat! Luckily, they are available year round at the grocery store. If you are looking to shop local, keep in mind that North American blueberries are only sold from April through October. Find the most ﬂavorful blueberries during peak season from mid-June to mid-August.
Here are a few fun facts about blueberries to share with friends, whether you are picking them oﬀ the bush or snacking on them at home:
- Blueberries are native to North America. Native Americans revered blueberries and believed their star-shaped ﬂower was a sign that the fruit was sent by The Great Spirit to end famine. They made great use of blueberries, brewing tea from their leaves, drinking their juice, using them as a natural dye, and smoking them to preserve them for winter. They even made jerky with dried blueberries and meat.
- July is National Blueberry Month. More than 15 states plan annual summer blueberry festivals to celebrate this popular fruit. Check out a list of them here.
- The U.S. and Canada grow the vast majority of the world’s blueberry crop. They are also grown in South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Northern and Eastern Europe.
- Blueberries are grown commercially in 38 states. The top three producers in 2012 were Maine, Michigan, and New Jersey, in that order.
- Blueberry plants are in the same family as azaleas and rhododendrons.
- The dusty outer layer of blueberries, called the bloom, protects them from degradation. If you want blueberries to last longer, don’t wash them until you are ready to eat them.
If you are looking for new ways to use blueberries, check out our 12 Great Ways to Use … Blueberries below.