Wild blueberries are a tasty superfood that for centuries has been a part of the native North American’s diet. These small wild blueberries are almost always found in the freezer section of most grocery stores.
“When you break open a wild blueberry or eat it you’ll get stains on your fingers. Those stains are pigments which are the health protective compounds which help with … cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes … memory [and] many forms of cancer.” ~ Mary Ann Lila, the director of the Plants for Human Health Institute, told TODAY.
What Makes Wild Blueberries Better Than Cultivated Blueberries
- While some wild ones are cultivated, thousands of acres grow naturally in fields and rocky hills and have been growing there for thousands of years.
- They grow wild in Maine, Atlantic Canada, and Quebec.
- In some areas, the locals go out to harvest them.
- They are native to Eastern North America and only grow there.
- Canada is the largest producer of the wild blueberry; they are Canada’s top fruit export.
- They are a low-maintenance crop.
- The owners of the wild blueberry fields are hands-off, although sometimes they introduce bees to pollinate the bushes.
- They grow on low bushes of 4 to 15 inches high.
- They spread with underground runners.
- Being a low bush and often on rocky terrain, they often cannot be harvested with machinery; they are mostly hand-harvested with rakes to scoop berries off the bushes.
- They are harvested in early August to early September.
- The wild berries are smaller and less juicy than cultivated blueberries.
- They have a sweeter and more intense taste than cultivated blueberries.
- They hold their shape and color when baked.
- They are highly perishable so most of them are frozen, but they freeze very well.
- They have 2 times more antioxidant power than cultivated berries.
- The deep-blue pigments of wild blueberries are due to anthocyanin, which has powerful health protection potential.
5 Health Benefits of Wild Blueberries
Enhances Brain Function
Children of school-age who eat them have an enhanced ability in mental skills such as helping them pay attention, complete tasks and manage time, according to this study.
Also, they help improve memory and mental function of older adults, according to research.
Spirits are lifted and depression is lessened when consuming them in young adults (ages 18 to 21) and children (ages 7 to 10) concluded a study
“Therefore, impact of flavonoids on positive mood in children and young adults could reduce their risk of depression in adolescence and later in life,” said study co-author Shirley Reynolds, Professor of Evidence Based Psychological Therapies at the University of Reading.
Loaded with Antioxidants
The research found that one cup of these wild berries have more antioxidant capacity than 20 other fresh vegetables and fruits (including cultivated blueberries, plums, cranberries, strawberries, and raspberries).
They have the highest total phenolic content per serving in the 25 fruits and 27 vegetables most consumed in the United States. A phenolic is a phytochemical compound that helps plants in reproduction and healthy growth. This is passed on when we eat them as this helps produce antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in us which reduces the risk of many chronic diseases.
Decreases Risk of Diabetes
They have 30 percent less sugar than cultivated blueberries (10 grams of sugar per cup). They are good for diabetics as they don’t cause spikes in blood sugar; they are a low-glycemic food with a score of 53 on the 100-point Glycemic Index.
Improves Memory in Older Adults
In one study, wild blueberry juice was consumed by nine older adults and at 12 weeks there was a marked improvement in memory recall.
History of Wild Blueberries
- They are native to North America, Scandinavia and most of Asia.
- Pliny in who wrote the famous Natural History book in 77 CE, did see blueberries but called them VACCINIUM, a word rooted in the Latin “vaccinus” meaning cow.
- It has a relative, the ‘box huckleberry’ which is the oldest living plant on the earth. It is estimated to be more than 13,000 years old.
Eastern Canada has been growing the wild blueberry for the past 10,000 years.
- They are one of the only three berries native to North America.
- The settlers helped their growth without realizing what they were doing. “The settlers in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia clear-cut tracts of land in the late 1700s, and in those areas where the land was abandoned, the wild blueberries just filled in.” says Peter Rideout, executive director of the Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia.
- They endure drought and fire and some varieties of blueberries produce more fruit after a forest fire.
Wild Blueberry Trivia
- Native Americans had the belief that the Wild Blueberry had magical powers. This is because, at the base of its flower, there is the shape of a five-pointed star. The legend says that in the time of starvation, the Great Spirit sent the “star berries” from heaven to dismiss the hunger of his children.
- Also, the Natives used the berries and the plant’s roots and leaves for medicinal purposes (to treat coughs and the juice was thought to be good for the blood).
- And they were used to dye for baskets and cloth.
- The dried blueberries were added to soups, stews, and cured meats.
- These wild berries are harvested by hand with wooden rakes that are comb-like.
Where Does One find Wild Blueberries?
They are available all year round because you can easily buy them frozen. It’s best to get wild blueberries, but if you can’t find them, then the cultivated ones are still a good addition to your diet.
Are the frozen berries as nutritious as fresh ones?
Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh and some even retain their nutritional value longer, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. For wild blueberries, this is good news as they freeze very well.
Both the cultivated blueberry and the wild blueberry are high in fiber and vitamin C, but they have slight differences you can read about below. Research shows that the wild blueberry is packed full of more beneficial phytochemicals than cultivated blueberries.
You can eat them fresh as they are so tasty. Or let’s create some delicious recipes.
Delicious Wild Blueberry Recipes
Chia Pudding with Wild Blueberries is Vegan Keto and Yummy -This is a super easy creamy vegan chia pudding. It is paleo and keto friendly too. You can use frozen blueberries. Talk about a fast way to prepare pudding; it took me only 5 minutes to prepare.
Wild Blueberry Grain-Free Crumble is Tasty and Good for You – This is a delicious wild blueberry grain-free crumble meaning it is gluten-free too. It is a very healthy recipe and is also refined sugar-free. What inspired this recipe was that my sister was coming for her birthday dinner and I wanted to have a very healthy dessert to serve.
Sweet Wild Blueberry Keto Smoothie is Easy to Make – I love this wild blueberry keto smoothie. It is perfect for a quick breakfast or makes a tasty afternoon snack. What makes it keto is that there are only a small amount of blueberries in it and all of the other ingredients are keto friendly. I make it a little sweeter by adding a few drops of stevia to mine.
Learn more about some of the healthiest vegetarian foods you will always want to have in your pantry or growing on your deck.READ: Superfoods – Over 100 of the Healthiest Foods You Should Have in Your Diet and learn more about the variety of Superfoods we think you should have in your diet.