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Blueberries

Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

Blueberries are good news all the way. These delicious berries contain more disease-fighting, age-proofing antioxidants than practically any other fruit or vegetable, even powerhouses such as kale, broccoli, and oranges. In fact, blueberries were at the top of the list of 40 fruits and vegetables tested for their antioxidant potential. The group of substances that put the "blue" in blueberry--anthocyanins--are probably responsible for much of the fruit's antioxidant power. Blueberries (like other berries such as blackberries) also contain ellagic acid, which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Blueberries also boast a high fiber content; and much of that fiber is pectin, a soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol levels.

Varieties

Cultivated blueberries: This is the variety you see most often in the supermarket. The marble-size berries are round and plump, with a deep blue color and whitish "bloom" (a dusty-looking surface).

Wild blueberries: These are far rarer. You may find them sold fresh locally (they grow in cool climates such as Maine and eastern Canada), but more often they are available canned or frozen. They are much smaller than the cultivated variety--there are 1,600 wild blueberries to the pound, compared to 500 cultivated blueberries--and have a chewy, dense texture and deep flavor. Because you get more blueberries to the pound, ounce for ounce wild blueberries provide more of the skin (which is where the blueberry's color compounds live). One side effect of this is that you'll get blue lips and teeth from eating a pie made with wild blueberries, but you will also be getting a much higher does of anthocyanins.

Dried blueberries: These are available in specialty food markets and can be used much as you would raisins. Like all dried fruit, they provide a concentration of the whole fruit's nutrients--in this case, they are a particularly rich source of anthocyanins.

Availability

Domestically grown cultivated blueberries are on the market from May through September or October. At other times of year, you can sometimes find imported blueberries in stores.

The wild blueberry season is short, and the berries are not shipped much beyond their growing area. If you don't live in wild-blueberry country, look for canned or frozen berries.

Shopping

Fresh blueberries should be deep blue and covered with a chalky white "bloom." The bloom is a sign of freshness. The berries should move freely when you shake the container; if they don't, it's a sign that they may be soft and stuck together. Inspect the box. If it's a wooden or cardboard container, and is damp or stained, the fruit inside may be crushed, moldy, or decayed.

If you buy frozen blueberries, be sure the berries rattle around the bag; if they are frozen into a solid clump, it's an indication that the berries have thawed and then been refrozen. Also, be sure to buy unsweetened berries, not berries in a sweetened syrup.

Storage

Blueberries are the least perishable of all berries and will last for seven to 10 days if refrigerated.

Before refrigerating, empty the container of blueberries into a bowl and remove any that are crushed or moldy, then return the berries to the container. This will prevent the other berries from going bad too quickly. Do not wash the berries before storing, however.

If you've bought more berries than you can use, freeze them. Spread the unwashed berries on a cookie sheet and place it in the freezer until the berries are frozen solid. Then transfer the berries to a heavy-duty plastic bag. They'll keep in the freezer for 10 months to a year.

Preparation

Before eating or cooking, rinse fresh blueberries and pat dry. Except for removing an occasional leaf, snippet of fine stem, or unripened berry (the reddish ones can be cooked, but aren't good raw), they are ready to eat.

Commercially frozen berries don't need to be washed before eating, but home-frozen ones should be quickly rinsed under cold running water. Let frozen berries thaw at room temperature for a few minutes before adding them to uncooked dishes. When using frozen berries in cooked dishes, do not thaw, and lengthen the cooking time a few minutes.

When adding fresh berries to batter, dust them first with flour. The coating keeps them from dropping to the bottom of the baking pan. If you are adding blueberries to a particularly thin batter (such as pancake batter), it's sometimes better to sprinkle the blueberries on top of the batter and let it rise up around the berries. Otherwise, the weight of the blueberries will carry to the bottom of the bowl right away and they won't be evenly distributed.

Nutrition Chart

Blueberries/1 cup raw

81
Total fat (g)
0.6
Saturated fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.2
Dietary fiber (g)
3.9
1
Carbohydrate (g)
20
Sodium (mg)
9
Vitamin C (mg)
19
Manganese (mg)
0.4


Date Published: 04/19/2005
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