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Blueberries


Blueberries

Varieties

Blueberries are the fruits of a shrub that belong to the heath (Ericaceae) family whose other members include the cranberry and bilberry as well as the azalea, mountain laurel, and rhododendron. Blueberries grow in clusters and range in size from that of a small pea to a marble. They are deep in color, ranging from blue to maroon to purple-black, and feature a white-gray waxy "bloom" that covers the berry's surface and serves as a protective coat. The skin surrounds a semi-transparent flesh that encases tiny seeds. Blueberries are at their best from May through October when they are in season.

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Storage

Before storing remove any crushed or moldy berries to prevent the rest from spoiling. Don't wash berries until right before eating as washing will remove the bloom that protects the berries' skins from degradation. Store ripe blueberries in a covered container in the refrigerator where they will keep for up to 3 days. If kept out at room temperature for more than a day, the berries may spoil.

Ripe berries can also be frozen, although this will slightly change their texture and flavor. Before freezing, wash, drain and remove any damaged berries. To better ensure uniform texture upon thawing, spread the berries out on a cookie sheet or baking pan, place in the freezer until frozen, then put the berries in a plastic bag for storage in the freezer.

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Nutritional and Medicinal Properties

Blueberries are phytonutrient superstars. These fruits contain significant amounts of anthocyanadins, antioxidant compounds that give blue, purple and red colors to fruits and vegetables. Included in blueberry anthocyanins are malvidins, delphinidins, pelargonidins, cyanidins, and peonidins. In addition to their anthocyanins, blueberrries also contain hydroxycinnamic acids (including caffeic, ferulic, and coumaric acid), hydroxybenzoic acids (including gallic and procatechuic acid), and flavonols (including kaempferol, quercetin and myricetin). Blueberries also contain the unique, phenol-like antioxidants pterostilbene and resveratrol.

Blueberries are a very good source of free radical-scavenging vitamin C and manganese, as well as heart-healthy fiber. Blueberries are also a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E.

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Basic Cooking Instructions

Blueberries retain their maximum amount of nutrients and their maximum taste when they are enjoyed fresh and not prepared in a cooked recipe. That is because their nutrients - - including vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes - undergo damage when exposed to temperatures (350°F/175°C and higher) used in baking.

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