The Wild Side of Blueberries
On a recent sponsored trip to coastal Maine, I was fortunate enough to tour the magnificent wild blueberry barrens and get down and dirty with this native North American berry.
Unlike the cultivated berries that grow on waist-high bushes, wild blueberries grow on low bushes that grow and spread surprisingly close to the ground. Although they get some thoughtful TLC from experienced farmers, these blueberries are truly a wild crop, not planted but continually spread naturally on the same land for over 10,000 years.
The nature of this life cycle allows for the growth of thousands of different varieties collectively. You can see this by the various colored berries flourishing in these vast fields.
This highly perishable crop cannot be shipped fresh, so instead the berries are frozen at their peak of freshness. So while the harvest season is incredibly short (basically July and August), they can be enjoyed all year round from the freezer section of the grocery store.
One cup of wild blueberries contains 80 calories and an impressive 6 grams of fiber. You will also get some iron, zinc and a lower natural-sugar content than you would from cultivated blueberries. Wild berries also have a claim to fame in the antioxidant department, boasting nearly twice the amount of flavonoids found in traditional berries and more of these cell-protecting compounds than cranberries, strawberries, blackberries and pomegranate.
Don’t let the frozen preparation stifle your culinary creativity. There are so many ways to enjoy these petite frozen berries.
Top pancakes with a blueberry sauce made with pineapple juice and fresh peaches.
Blend frozen berries in a food processor and flavor them with lemon zest and a pinch of sugar for a refreshing, low-calorie treat.
Steep some berries in a warm cup of green tea.
Make a flavorful topper to smother a Greek Yogurt Cheesecake.
Blend with coconut milk, frozen banana and a drizzle of agave for a vegan breakfast smoothie.
Bake a batch of Overnight Blueberry Buns.
Add to your favorite BBQ sauce recipe to give it a sweet and tangy edge.
Whip up a batch of Wild Blueberry Cornmeal Waffles.
Stir into a steamy bowl of oatmeal to infuse with flavor and nutrients.
Defrost and blend with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard and herbs for a fresh and colorful vinaigrette.
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.