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   Jul 13

Celebrate National Blueberry Month with these Scrumptious Recipes packed with Great Flavors and Health Benefits!

blueberriesThere is nothing like biting into a handful of fresh blueberries one of the most popular berries plus repeatedly ranked in the U.S. diet as having one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices and seasonings. Delicious and Nutritious!

We’ve got some wonderful recipes for you but first-

What’s New and Beneficial About Blueberries

  • After many years of research on blueberry antioxidants and their potential benefits for the nervous system and for brain health, there is exciting new evidence that blueberries can improve memory. In a study involving older adults (with an average age of 76 years), 12 weeks of daily blueberry consumption was enough to improve scores on two different tests of cognitive function including memory. While participants in the study consumed blueberries in the form of juice, three-quarters of a pound of blueberries were used to make each cup of juice. As participants consumed between 2 to 2-1/2 cups each day, the participants actually received a very plentiful amount of berries. The authors of this study were encouraged by the results and suggested that blueberries might turn out to be beneficial not only for improvement of memory, but for slowing down or postponing the onset of other cognitive problems frequently associated with aging.
  • New studies make it clear that we can freeze blueberries without doing damage to their delicate anthocyanin antioxidants. There’s no question about the delicate nature of many antioxidant nutrients found in blueberries. These antioxidants include many different types of anthocyanins, the colorful pigments that give many foods their wonderful shades of blue, purple, and red. After freezing blueberries at temperatures of 0°F (-17°C) or lower for periods of time between 3-6 months, researchers have discovered no significant lowering of overall antioxidant capacity or anthocyanin concentrations. Anthocyanins studied have included malvidins, delphinidins, pelargonidins, cyanidins, and peonidins. These findings are great news for anyone who grows, buys, or picks fresh berries in season and wants to enjoy them year round. They are also great news for anyone who has restricted access to fresh blueberries but can find them in the freezer section of the market.
  • Berries in general are considered low in terms of their glycemic index (GI). GI is a common way of identifying the potential impact of a food on our blood sugar level once we’ve consumed and digested that food. In general, foods with a GI of 50 or below are considered “low” in terms of their glycemic index value. When compared to other berries, blueberries are not particularly low in terms of their GI. Studies show the GI for blueberries as falling somewhere in the range of 40-53, with berries like blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries repeatedly scoring closer to 30 than to 40. However, a recent study that included blueberries as a low-GI fruit has found that blueberries, along with other berries, clearly have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation in persons already diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Participants in the study who consumed at last 3 servings of low-GI fruits per day (including blueberries) saw significant improvement in their regulation of blood sugar over a three-month period of time. (Their blood levels of glycosylated hemoglobin, or HgA1C were used as the standard of measurement in this study.) It’s great to see blueberries providing these clear health benefits for blood sugar regulation!
  • If you want to maximize your antioxidant benefits from blueberries, go organic! A recent study has directly compared the total antioxidant capacity of organically grown versus non-organically grown highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum L., var. Bluecrop) and found some very impressive results for the organically grown berries. Organically grown blueberries turned out to have significantly higher concentrations of total phenol antioxidants and total anthocyanin antioxidants than conventionally grown blueberries, as well as significantly higher total antioxidant capacity. Numerous specific antioxidant anthocyanins were measured in the study, including delphinidins, malvidins, and petunidins. The antioxidant flavonoid quercetin was also measured.

Description

With flavors that range from mildly sweet (cultivated) to tart and tangy (wild), blueberries are nutritional stars bursting with nutrition and flavor while being very low in calories.

Blueberries are the fruits of a shrub that belong to the heath (Ericaceae) family whose other members include the cranberry and bilberry as well as the azalea, mountain laurel, and rhododendron. Blueberries grow in clusters and range in size from that of a small pea to a marble. They are deep in color, ranging from blue to maroon to purple-black, and feature a white-gray waxy “bloom” that covers the berry’s surface and serves as a protective coat. The skin surrounds a semi-transparent flesh that encases tiny seeds. Blueberries are at their best from May through October when they are in season.

From a botanical perspective, all blueberries belong not only to the Ericaceae family of plants but also to the Vaccinium genus. Within this Vaccinium genus, however, are three very interesting groups of blueberries!

  • Highbush Blueberries: These species are the most commonly cultivated forms of blueberries and the type we see most often in the grocery store. Included here are northern and southern highbush, which can grow as high as 12 feet in height in their native (uncultivated) state but when cultivated usually stay within a range of 4-7 feet. Highbush blueberries are also the kind you’re most likely to find available for purchase at your local garden stores and plant nurseries. Cultivated highbush blueberries have often been hybridized to produce larger size berries, which U.S. consumers seem to prefer.
  • Lowbush Blueberries: These species are commonly referred to as “wild blueberries.” In their native state, they typically grow less than 2 feet in height and often stay even lower, at 8-12 inches from the ground. Lowbush species produce berries of a smaller size than highbush and even though they can be found growing wild in many parts of the U.S. are not commonly found in supermarkets.
  • Rabbiteye Blueberries: These species are native to the southern U.S. and can grow up to 20 feet in height in their native state. They are less frequently cultivated than highbush blueberries, but when cultivated, the plant usually grows to heights of 4-10 feet.

All types of blueberries described above have found their way into agricultural practices around the world and are part of cuisines from Asia to the Mediterranean. Some varieties were originally transported to Europe and Asia from North America, but native varieties of blueberries can be found on all three continents.

History

Blueberries hold a special place in the foods of North America, since more species of blueberries are native to North America than any other continent. While lowbush berries are native to other parts of the world — including Europe, the Mediterranean and Asia — highbush berries were originally found almost exclusively in North America. To this day, the United States cultivates and supplies over half of all blueberries on a global basis. (The next largest percentage of world production — about 30% — also belongs to a North American country, Canada.) Among the 275 million pounds of blueberries grown in the U.S. (out of 550 million pounds grown worldwide), Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, and North Carolina are states most heavily involved in blueberry farming. Because of its special interest in lowbush blueberries, the state of Maine is actually the largest lowbush blueberry producer in the world.

Cultivation of blueberries was widespread among the Native American tribes throughout North America. European colonists learned about blueberries thanks to these Native American traditions and brought blueberry species back to Europe. Yet commercial cultivation of blueberries in Europe has been a relatively recent phenomenon limited to the 20th and 21st centuries. Thanks to increasing cultivation in the Southern Hemisphere — including South American countries such as Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay as well South Africa, New Zealand and Australia — fresh blueberries are now enjoyed throughout the year on many of the world’s continents.

One interesting current trend in history of blueberries has been their dramatically increased consumption within the U.S. In 1997, the average U.S. adult consumed about 13 ounces of blueberries per year. Ten years later, in 2007, that amount nearly doubled and reached an average level of 22 ounces. This increasing consumption of blueberries within the U.S. has led to cultivation of blueberries on almost 100,000 acres of land in the U.S., and has moved blueberries to second place as the most commonly eaten berry in the U.S. (second only to strawberry).

How to Select and Store

Choose blueberries that are firm and have a lively, uniform hue colored with a whitish bloom. Shake the container, noticing whether the berries have the tendency to move freely; if they do not, this may indicate that they are soft and damaged or moldy. Avoid berries that appear dull in color or are soft and watery in texture. They should be free from moisture since the presence of water will cause the berries to decay. When purchasing frozen berries, shake the bag gently to ensure that the berries move freely and are not clumped together, which may suggest that they have been thawed and refrozen. Blueberries that are cultivated in the United States are available from May through October while imported berries may be found at other times of the year.

Before storing remove any crushed or moldy berries to prevent the rest from spoiling. Don’t wash berries until right before eating as washing will remove the bloom that protects the berries’ skins from degradation. Store ripe blueberries in a covered container in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 3 days. If kept out at room temperature for more than a day, the berries may spoil.

Ripe berries can also be frozen, although this will slightly change their texture and flavor. Before freezing, wash, drain and remove any damaged berries. To better ensure uniform texture upon thawing, spread the berries out on a cookie sheet or baking pan, place in the freezer until frozen, then put the berries in a plastic bag for storage in the freezer.

Recent research has shown that fresh blueberries can be frozen without damaging their delicate anthocyanin antioxidants. There’s no question about the delicate nature of many antioxidant nutrients found in blueberries. These antioxidants include many different types of anthocyanins, the colorful pigments that give many foods their wonderful shades of blue, purple, and red. After freezing blueberries at temperatures of 0°F (-17°C) or lower for periods of time between 3-6 months, researchers have discovered no significant lowering of overall antioxidant capacity or anthocyanin concentrations. Anthocyanins studied have included malvidins, delphinidins, pelargonidins, cyanidins, and peonidins. These findings should encourage you to consider freezing your blueberries if you have an abundant seasonal supply but restricted access to fresh berries during other parts of the year.

Tips for Preparing and Cooking

Tips for Preparing Blueberries

Fresh berries are very fragile and should be washed briefly and carefully and then gently patted dry if they are not organic. Wash berries just prior to use to not prematurely remove the protective bloom that resides on the skin’s surface. If you know the source of either wild or organic berries try not to wash them at all.

When using frozen berries in recipes that do not require cooking, thaw well and drain prior to using.

Blueberries retain their maximum amount of nutrients and their maximum taste when they are enjoyed fresh and not prepared in a cooked recipe. That is because their nutrients – including vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes – undergo damage when exposed to temperatures (350°F/175°C and higher) used in baking.

For a Few Quick Serving Ideas and

WHFoods Recipes That Feature Blueberries head to website of the source of this article: The World’s Healthiest Foods

Now for those Scrumptious Recipes:

blueberry_crispLemon Zested Blueberry Crisp

Ingredients

  • Serves: 6
  • 1 1/2 pints fresh blueberries, washed
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • Topping:
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup oats (quick or old fashioned work)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

For Pictures and directions go to the source: Kates Carlata

INSTANT BLUEBERRY PUDDINGS

Blend well: 2cups fresh blueberries1 bananna11/2 cups water

Optional- for more nutrition add 1 stalk of celery

The thing about blending fresh blueberries is that they set up and become firm for an instant pudding!

blueberry_dessert_in_cup

Here’s some recipes from the Blueberry Council and you’ll find many more on their site.

Blueberry Sorbet 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh or thawed, frozen blueberries
  • 1 can (6 ounces) frozen apple juice concentrate

Instructions

  1. In the container of a food processor or blender, combine blueberries and apple juice concentrate
  2. Whirl until liquefied
  3. Pour into a 11 X 7-inch baking pan
  4. Cover and freeze until firm around the edges, about 2 hours
  5. With a heavy spoon, break frozen mixture into pieces
  6. Place mixture in a processor or blender container
  7. Whirl until smooth but not completely melted
  8. Spoon into a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan
  9. Cover and freeze until firm
  10. Serve within a few days

Blueberry And Butternut Squash Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1-1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup raw couscous*
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 cups blueberries
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 3 cups baby arugula

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. In a large bowl, toss squash with 1 tablespoon of the oil.
  3. Spread on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until tender, about 22 minutes; let cool.
  4. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan bring broth to a boil.
  5. Stir in couscous, remove from heat and cover; let stand 5 minutes.
  6. Fluff with a fork; cool.
  7. In a small bowl whisk together remaining olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper; set aside.
  8. In a large bowl combine squash, scallions, blueberries, cheese and couscous.
  9. Spread arugula on a serving platter.
  10. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the dressing.
  11. Add remaining dressing to couscous mixture; toss to combine.
  12. Serve over arugula.

Quick notes:

Servings:  6

*Note: You can substitute any grain in place of the couscous, such as quinoa, farro, barley, wheatberries, rice, etc.

Blueberry Pineapple Salsa

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup finely diced fresh pineapple
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds and membrane removed, minced
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons lime juice, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon lime zest
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion Kosher salt, as needed

Instructions

Combine blueberries, pineapple, jalapeño, 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, lime zest, cilantro and red onion.
Season with salt and additional lime juice as needed.
Serve with tortilla chips or as an accompaniment to fish or chicken.

Enjoy!

Photo sources via flickr-

Blueberry dessert in cup

https://www.flickr.com/photos/85865892@N03/14196951506

blueberry crisp

http://flickr.com/photos/49465784@N03/4816072759

blueberries

https://www.flickr.com/photos/38456320@N02/3543109815

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