What is a blueberry?
Luscious blueberries are a perfect accompaniment to creamy dairy products. There is no need for ice when you can toss a handful of frozen blueberries into your banana smoothie. You also get the bonus of extra vitamins in your drink. And let’s not forget the blueberry tart – sugar-dusted blueberries showcased on golden pastry and served with lashings of clotted cream.
Blueberry species native to North America are now cultivated commercially throughout the world. They were first introduced to Australia in the late 1960s and there is now a thriving blueberry industry on the eastern coast and in cooler regions of Australia. Blueberries are grown from Queensland to Tasmania and in the south-west of Western Australia.
In Australia, blueberries are sold in punnets (containers) but not by variety.
Nowadays, there is a greater choice for shoppers as blueberries are grown in Australia and New Zealand as well as in North America.
Why blueberries are good to eat
- Blueberries are a good source of vitamins C (needed for the growth and repair of tissues in the body) and K (important for helping your blood to clot).
- They also contain minerals such as potassium (which helps to regulate blood pressure) and manganese (involved in the regulation of brain and nerve function).
- Blueberries contain dietary fibre, which is important for a healthy bowel.
- Energy – 100 g of blueberries supplies 220 kJ.
How are they grown and harvested?
Blueberry bushes grow best in climates with cool winters. New plants are grown from cuttings from established bushes. Cool summer nights and warm and sunny days result in fruit with great flavour. The bushes also need plenty of water and shelter from hot, dry winds.
During the cool weather, flower buds develop on the blueberry bush. White or pink flowers appear in spring and eventually these develop into clusters of berries. The fruit is usually ripe between two and four months after the flowers have fully developed. As the berries ripen they change colour from green to red to blue. Depending on the type of blueberry bush, the plant can grow to more than 7 m tall. Blueberry bushes are pruned to encourage more growth and to make harvesting easier.
Harvesting of blueberries is labour intensive, as the fruit is hand-picked to avoid damage. Blueberries do not ripen further after they have been picked and the clusters of blueberries do not necessarily ripen simultaneously. Sometimes, blueberries picked early in the season are not very sweet.
Choose blueberries that are plump, firm and uniform in colour. Blueberries have a light-blue to silver coating or dusted look (known as the ‘bloom’). This is a natural protective coating that develops on the berries to protect them from the sun and does not affect the quality of the fruit.
Avoid blueberries that look soft or shrivelled. Also avoid selecting punnets stained with blueberry juice or those that have mouldy berries.
How to store and keep blueberries
Store blueberries covered in your fridge. Do not wash them until you are ready to use them. Use blueberries within five days of buying.
How to use
- Make a salsa – combine blueberries with sliced red onion, red capsicum, chilli, fresh coriander leaves and a squeeze of lemon juice then serve with chicken or fish.
- Drizzle blueberry vinaigrette on your salad – blend blueberries with olive oil, red wine vinegar and seasoning.
- Add a nutritious punch to breakfast – toss a handful of blueberries on the uncooked side of pancakes before turning, then serve with creamy yoghurt.
- Try blueberries in a salad – toss blueberries, spinach leaves, slices of red onion and pear and fresh ricotta cheese, then drizzle with a garlic and lemon juice dressing and sprinkle with chopped basil leaves and walnuts before serving.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
Better Health Channel
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