Blueberries, Blueberries, Blueberries…
Although blueberries can be found in grocery stores year round, blueberry season is really from May to October. Blueberries grow on shrubs and range in size from that of a small pea to a marble. Their colour is blue, maroon or purple-black and features a white-grey bloom that covers the surface serving as a protective coat. The flesh inside is translucent with tiny seeds. Some berries are mildly sweet and some are tart and tangy. Wild blueberries are smaller and have a darker flesh.
Blueberries are low in calories and packed full of nutrients. 1/2 cup of blueberries contains:
8 mg vitamin C
Not only do they have vitamins and minerals, they are bursting with antioxidant activity from anthocyanidins, the blue-red pigment in blueberries. Wild blueberries top the charts in terms of antioxidant activity. Antioxidants neutralize free radical damage to cells and tissues that can lead to cataracts, glaucoma, peptic ulcers, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, heart disease and cancer as well as urinary tract infections.
Blueberries also contain:
Pterostilbene, a powerful antioxidant known to fight cancer and may also help lower cholesterol.
Ellagic acid, an antioxidant which blocks the pathways that can lead to cancer, in particular colon cancer
Pectin, a soluble fibre known to help lower LDL cholesterol
Blueberries contain oxalates which may cause crystal formation in the kidney or gallbladder in people with existing problems. Oxalates also interfere in calcium absorption and therefore should not be consumed in large quantities within 2 hours of taking a calcium supplement.
Selection and storage:
When buying blueberries at the grocery store, lightly shake the container to check if the berries are moving freely. If not they may be soft or mouldy. Berries should be uniform in colour and have a light white bloom. Blueberries should be stored in the refrigerator where they will keep for about a week. Always remove any damaged berries before storing to prevent the spread of mould. Don’t wash berries until right before eating as washing will remove the bloom which protects the skin from degradation.
Ripe berries can be frozen. Wash, drain and remove damaged berries first. If space permits in your freezer, freeze first on a cookie sheet on parchment paper and then store in airtight freezer container.
- Fresh or frozen blueberries can be added to muffins, on cereal, in pancakes, in smoothies or berry crumbles
- Eat them frozen as a tasty snack to curb that sweet craving
- Cook blueberries with maple syrup on salmon
- Add blueberries to salads with nuts or cooked into jam.