Blueberries!

Crazy about blueberries?  You aren’t the only one!  In 1999, the United States Department of Agriculture gave blueberries their own month – July – and rightfully so.  These little blue gems are native to North America, and moreover, the USA supplies the majority of blueberries worldwide.  You can find blueberries on three types of U.S.-based plants: highbush, lowbush and hybrid half-high.

As they grow, blueberries first appear as pale green fruits on the branch, and their color deepens as they ripen.  We harvest blueberries from May to late summer, but their best picking times are July through mid-August – so right now, ’tis the season!  Blueberries also freeze well, so stock up this month and enjoy them all year round.

Bunch_of_blueberries,_one_unripe

Justifying Your Blueberries
The nutrient profile of this fruit is impressive!  Blueberries pack a big punch in a small bite. They are full of…

Vitamin C: One cup of blueberries provides 25% the daily requirement for Vitamin C, which is vital for immune function, healthy gums, and collagen formation.  Vitamin C also acts as a potent antioxidant, protecting the body’s cells and DNA from damage and reducing the risk for chronic disease.

Manganese: Manganese is a trace mineral that acts as an antioxidant as well.  Manganese plays a role in bone health and is needed for the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

Fiber: Americans need 25-35 grams of fiber a day.  Fiber promotes regular bowel movements, prevents constipation, normalizes blood sugars, lowers cholesterol, and protects against certain cancers.  One cup of blueberries provides 3.5 grams of healthy fiber!

Rhett Maxwell, Creative Commons license

Rhett Maxwell, Creative Commons license

Picking Your Blueberries
– Choose blueberries that are firm and have a uniform color.
– Shake the container to visibly see all the berries.
– Choose berries in containers that are free from moisture, which prevents spoilage.
– Carefully Wash and pat dry prior to eating

 

Eating Your Blueberries!
Everyone knows that blueberries can be a sweet dessert, fresh or frozen.  But blueberries can also be an unexpected complement in savory dishes.  Read on for branching out with your blueberries!

Blueberry Salsa
Recipe from Southern Living, 2010

Ingredients
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh blueberries
1 cup whole fresh blueberries
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions
Toss together coarsely chopped fresh blueberries, whole fresh blueberries, fresh lemon juice, chopped fresh cilantro, seeded and minced jalapeño peppers, diced red bell pepper, and kosher salt in a large bowl. Serve immediately, or cover and chill 8 hours.

– Terri Corsentino, Dietetic Intern

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