By: Sharon Martin
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been picking wild blueberries for centuries. The succulent sweet tasty berry has provided us with an easy to attain ingredients for countless recipes such as jams, muffins, puddings, cakes, pies, squares and even wine. In the early days, blueberries were a staple of life in rural Newfoundland and Labrador and the gathering of this delicious fruit in late summer and early fall was not only a tradition but also a necessity.
Wild blueberries were an essential dietary element of America's earliest inhabitants who dried them for fall and winter rations and used them to heal morning sickness, coughs and headaches. Wild blueberries were also used in curing wild game.
Native Americans believed that wild blueberries had magical powers. Legend has it that these "star berries", so named for the 5-point calyx atop each berry, were sent by the Great Spirit to relieve the hunger during a time of starvation.
Modern science proves the wild blueberry contains certain health benefits. This little berry that grows wild in NL has a claim to fame that no other part of the world can boast! Few people realize it but the NL wild blueberry is the only wild blueberry in the world that is not susceptible to blueberry maggot.
The blueberry maggot has been reported from the following Canadian locations: Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Victoria and Carleton counties. A few very localized infestations have been reported from Ontario, northeast of Lake Erie, from 1993 to 1994. The blueberry maggot is the most serious pest of low bush blueberries. Although larvae damage fruit, the seriousness of this pest results from the presence of maggots in harvested fruit. The maggot is not harmful to health, however, its presence makes fresh, canned or frozen fruit unacceptable for markets. The female fly laying an egg under the skin of the berry initiates damage. The developing maggot feeds within the berry destroying the pulp, causing the berry to become shriveled. The infested berry tends to drop off the plant prematurely. Infested berries that remain on the plant and are harvested can result in major losses as there is a zero tolerance for maggots in most fresh markets, and a low tolerance in processing markets.
All blueberries are not created equal! Cultivated blueberries are known as high bush and the wild blueberry is known as a low bush variety. Wild blueberries are tangy, sweet and generally have a more intense flavor than their cultivated cousins. Because wild blueberries are harvested at the peak of ripeness and immediately flash-frozen, they retain their just-picked flavor for year-round use.
When you purchase frozen wild blueberries, you not only enjoy superior blueberry taste you also get the full nutrition value of fresh fruit, according to the FDA. Wild blueberries are typically smaller in size, which means you get more berries by the pound, cup or handful - and a wilder blueberry taste in everything you make, bake or blend.
Researchers and health experts have identified the wild blueberry as a super food and have placed it in the top ten health foods for the past decade or so.
What does this berry contain that gives it such a high profile in nutrition value?
According to the experts blueberries rank Number 1 in antioxidant activity compared to over 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants are thought to help protect the body against the damaging effects of free radicals and the chronic diseases associated with the aging process.
Other known benefits include:
- Improved vision
- Clearer arteries
- More antioxidants for disease prevention
- The strengthening of blood vessels
- Helps with urinary tract infections
- Helps promote weight control
- Reverses age- related physical and mental declines
- Enhances memory
Rodrigues Winery in Markland just, outside of Whitbourne, has been making NL wild berry wines, which are all Kosher and sulfite- free. Dr Rodrigues has completed extensive research and tests on these super berries and started a new business : Natural Newfoundland Nutriceuticals
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