I pop a perfectly ripened, freshly picked blueberry in my mouth. There a distinctive “snap” as the skin yields to my teeth as sweet blue juice gushes across my tongue.
There’s nothing quite like the perfect blueberry experience. As a BC resident, I have the great fortune to live in the heart one of the best blueberry-growing regions on earth.
Most of us know blueberries as they come in the grocery store. Plump, juicy, abundant. Blueberries are now the dominant crop of the Fraser Valley and are widely grown throughout north america.
Blueberries grow prolifically in the wild as well. For example, the hillsides in the Whistler valley are packed with wild blueberries. If you know what to look for, they are impossible to miss. My mountain bike tours in the summer always include wild Broad-leaf blueberry tasting which inevitably leads to a discussion on Black Bears. You can most commonly find wild blueberries in south-western BC in mountainous areas where there isn’t a lot of tree cover. Look for cleared areas like ski runs and places where there have been forest fires.
I also remember the low, scrub-type bushes of the late summer in the Thompson-Caribou region while living in Blue River, BC. These bushes grew tiny, intensely sweet “juice bomb berries”.
Blueberries contain high levels of anti-oxidants and are, perhaps, some of the most widely recognized of all the superfoods.
Blueberries contain many vitamins and minerals with significant amounts of vitamins C and K as well as the mineral manganese.
A quick study on Wikipedia shows a number of anti disease effects of blueberries. Notably, “[blueberries] may alleviate the cognitive decline occurring in Alzheimer’s Disease and other conditions of aging.”
Blueberries may also help to prevent urinary tract infection, maintain normal blood pressure and lower blood cholesterol which will, in turn, lower the risk of heart disease. Blueberries may improve memory and are also said to reduce symptoms of depression.
Blueberries, also have a very low glycemic load which explains why they can be helpful in reducing blood sugar levels.
One very interesting thing about blueberries is the difference between wild and commercially grown. Basically, there are two types of blueberries. “Highbush” blueberries are the kind that grow in our neck of the woods. The commercially grown blueberries of the Fraser Valley are highbush. “Lowbush” blueberries can more commonly be found in the interior areas of BC and are more commonly commercially produced in the eastern areas of north america. Lowbush blueberries are often marketed as “wild” even though they may not actually be truly wild. True wild blueberries can contain up to twice the nutritional value of their commercially grown counterparts.
So, unless you head out into the woods and harvest them yourselves, (the bears are watching you) the “wild” blueberries you purchase (at a premium) may only be so because of a marketing ploy.
If you’d like to pick some wild blueberries, contact me in August or September. I’m always happy to share my love for wild blueberries and I have lots of experience avoiding the wrath of bears. Actually, they typically don’t mind sharing as there’s usually plenty of blue to go around.
All pictures have been sourced from the “Wikimedia Commons”. Many thanks to all contributors.
Disclaimer: Statements made in this publication are the thoughts and opinions of the author and have not been evaluated by the U.S. or Canadian Food and Drug Administration.