Blueberries top many a list of favorite berries - especially in July, when they are ripe and ready for harvest, so it only seems right that we should celebrate them.
The North American Blueberry Council (NABC) has been championing the tasty fruit for decades, and in July 2003, National Blueberry Month became official with a proclamation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Two people are credited with helping the blueberry evolve into what it is today. In the early 1900s, Frederick Coville, a botanist for the USDA, began looking for ways to improve wild blueberries, which are native to North America.
Around the same time, Elizabeth White, the daughter of a cranberry farmer, believed that a crop of blueberries could complement their farm, if only the plants could be domesticated. When White read Coville's "Experiments in Blueberries", she invited him to work with her on the family farm to continue the experiments.
The pair had their first successful field plantings in 1912. In 1916, they sold their first commercial crop. The blueberry craze was born and has been going strong ever since.
Native Americans have long known the versatility of blueberries, using the wild berries for food, medicine, and dyes.. As blueberries became more available, others followed suit and marveled at this multifaceted fruit. Blueberries are high in antioxidants, low in calories, and a good source of vitamin C, making them one of the healthiest - and yummiest - foods. Their rich color works well in dyes, paints, and cosmetics. Dried blueberries add beauty to any decorative arrangement, and blueberry bushes enhance a landscaped yard.
Blueberries are one of the few native fruits of North America Lowbush berries a/k/a wild blueberries do well in colder regions of the country. Their bushes can grow up to about knee-height, and they spread. The lowbush berries are small and sweet. Highbush berries like warm climates. The bushes are tall (6-12 feet) and produce a bountiful crop of larger, less sweet berries.
Eat! Blueberries are delicious to eat alone or in a dish. My favorite way to eat them is right off the bush on a warm day in peak season. If that's not an option, grab some at a farmer's market or at the grocer. Eat them plain or add them to just about anything - smoothies, desserts, jams, baked goods, sauces, or toss a handful into a salad. They really are one of the easiest foods to use in just about anything. Try one of the recipes from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.
Learn! With so many ways to use them, blueberries get around a lot. Find something you're interested in that can utilize blueberries and give it a try - a new recipe; grow your own bush; make dye (careful, they stain!), candles, beauty products... Learn the properties of the blueberry and how they can work for you.
Enjoy! Blueberries are available year round, so don't think of them as just a summer fruit. They will be pricier in the off months, but freeze well enough that you can stock up in season and save some for later. Packaged frozen blueberries are always an option. However you use them, life is always better with blueberries!
- Barbara 🙃
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