In 1999, the month of July was proclaimed National Blueberry Month by the USDA. Blueberries are commercially grown in 38 states in the US, with 10 states accounting for more than 99% of US commercial production.
Blueberries are a good source of fiber and Vitamin C and high in manganese. They are also an excellent source of Vitamin A, potassium, folic acid, and fiber. Blueberries are also low in fat and sodium. One-half cup of blueberries has only 40 calories.Studies report the benefits of eating blueberries include: improved vision, clearing arteries, strengthening blood vessels, enhanced memory, stopping urinary tract infections, and reversing age-related physical and mental declines. The deep blue color of blueberries is from pigments, called anthocyanins that act as antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that protect cells against damage by free radicals that form in the body. Research shows that foods rich in antioxidants like blueberries help reduce your chance of getting cancer and heart disease.
The Rabbiteye blueberry is the most successfully grown in the South. The locally grown Rabbiteye blueberries are available from early May through mid-June in South Louisiana and from early June through mid-July in North Louisiana.Blueberries from other sections of the country are plentiful in supermarkets in July and August. When selecting fresh blueberries look for blueberries that are plump and firm with a dark blue color and waxy, silvery ‘bloom”. Since blueberries do not ripen after harvest, eat them as soon as you buy them.
Handle fruit gently to avoid bruising since this will shorten the life of the fruit. Store berries loosely in a shallow container to allow air circulation and to prevent the berries on top from crushing those underneath. It is important that you not wash berries before refrigerating because this will make them mushy. Store covered containers of berries in a cool, moist area of the refrigerator, such as the vegetable bin, to help extend the usable life of the fruit. The recommended storage time is three to five days however some blueberries will last up to two weeks. When ready for your berries, wash them gently in cold water, lift out of water and drain.
Blueberries are nature’s convenience food- no peeling, pitting, or coring!Try adding them to cereals, fruit, salads, muffins, pancakes, or top on ice cream or waffles. For a refreshing summer drink, drop frozen berries in sparkling water.A blueberry smoothie also makes a great snack! You might also enjoy making this blueberry muffin recipe below.
2 cups sifted flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup oil
1 cup low-fat milk
Yields: 18 muffins
Nutrition information: 1 muffin, Calories: 152, Fat: 5 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Cholesterol: 21 mg, Sodium: 251 mg, and Carbohydrates: 23 g
For more information on blueberries, download a copy of “Enjoy Louisiana Blueberries” publication from the LSU AgCenter's website.
Sources: Enjoy Louisiana Blueberries - LSU AgCenter and US Highbush Blueberry Council