The mighty blueberry belongs to the genus Vaccinium and is a Native
American species. The blueberry is one of the few fruits native to North
America. So diverse and hardy, the blueberry has a "cousin" that grows on
the side of Hawaiian volcanoes.
For centuries, blueberries were gathered from the forests and the ravines
by Native Americans and eaten fresh or preserved. Blueberries were
revered by Northeast Native American tribes and so valued that folklore
was woven around them. The blosson end of each berry, called the calyx,
forms the shape of a perfect 5 point star. Tribal elders would tell tales
of these "stared berries" and how the Great Spirit offered them in order
to keep children fed during times of famine. Portions of the blueberry
plant were also used as medicine. Tea made from the plant was thought to
be healthy for the blood. Blueberry juice was used to comfort coughs. The
juice served a dual purpose and was used as a dye for cloth and baskets.
Dried blueberries were added to stews and soups and the crushed dried
powder was rubbed onto meats to offer them flavor. Blueberries as
medicine? Well, that goes without saying.
Settlers arrived in the New World during the 17th century and with their
arrival came the clearing of land for farms. The climate in North America
was not anything like the weather early settlers were accustomed to, so
their early attempts at farming failed.
Plymouth Rock, established in the year 1620, was one of the first Early
American Colonies. Life wasn't easy and many suffered and died during
this period. Those who survived went on to establish homes and farms.
Their Native American neighbors pitched in and taught them new skills so
the settlers might survive. They were schooled in the art of planting
corn and taught how to gather native plants in order to augment their
food supply. Of course, one of the most important crops was the mighty
blueberry. Colonists learned from Native Americans how to gather, dry and
store this most revered and delicious fruit. A drink made from
blueberries was an important staple for soldiers during the civil war. As
industrialization began taking over, the first blueberry canning facility
was opened in the northeastern USA.
For decades, the mighty blueberry maintained popularity as a major and
thriving commercial business in the USA and Canada. At the turn of the
century, the blueberry industry geared itself to an even more important
step. In the early 1900's, Elizabeth White and Frederick Coville set out
to domesticate the wild highbush blueberry. This laid the foundation for
today's cultivated blueberry industry. The early breeding work
accomplished by these early pioneers gave rise to the blueberry we know
today. Without these early pioneering efforts, we would not have the
fresh and frozen blueberries in the grocery that we have come to know and
For decades, plant scientists have worked to enhance and identify the
desirable characteristics of the Highbush Blueberry (the variety that is
widely consumed today) and this has led to the cultivation of superior
blueberries all the way around. The berries have been improved through
natural selection and specialized plant breeding protocols. Today, we
produce the optimal blueberry with marked color, flavor and texture for
the fresh and processed food markets.
The United States and Canada are responsible for producing 90 percent of
the world's blueberry supplies. North American harvest season runs from
mid April through the first part of October. Peak harvest is the month of
July rendering it no surprise that July has been dubbed "National
Blueberry Month". Highbush blueberries are perennial, deciduous, long-
lived and woody shrub like plants. They belong to the same family as
cranberries and azalia. Blueberries thrive in acidic soil. Cultivated
blueberries take anywhere from 120 to 160 days to mature. Flowering in
the spring, blueberry plants bear fruit anywhere from 60 to 90 days
Today, the modern Highbush blueberry is grown commercially in 38 states
and Canadian Provinces. Highbush blueberry industries have also cropped
up in places such as Australia, South America, Europe and New Zealand.
The USA and Canada are the biggest producers and consumers. However, the
market around the world is on the rise with Japan in the forefront, it
appears. Overall, fresh market and processed market blueberries demand
and consumption is on the rise.
At this point in time, it would be almost safe to say that everyone loves
blueberries. While scientific research constantly takes place with regard
to the marked health benefits surrounding this little fruit, the majority
simply eat them without the blink of an eye. Because we are able to can
and freeze these delicious amazing little fruits, one can find
blueberries available year round. Regarded as a good thing as research
has proven beyond a doubt why everybody should be enjoying this powerful
little gift from nature.
Dr. Linda Posh MS SLP ND. "Doc Posh" brings a fresh perspective to
natural health and nutrition. She packs a solid educational background
with degrees in organic chemistry, psychology and a Masters in
Communication Sciences and Disorders. The Dr. sports a diverse work
history including experience and expertise in acute care neurorehab
services, special education, autism support services, spinal cord
injuries, senior rehabilitation services and currently consults to both
patients and colleagues in natural health. Recently, she has been in the
laboratory, formulating revolutionary whole food nutritional supplements.
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