Wild blueberries are packed with health benefits
The evidence is in and it is pretty substantial.
For the past eight years, study after study has demonstrated blueberries — especially wild blueberries — are delivering a healthy dose of antioxidants that simply cannot be ignored.
"Wild blueberries contain some of the most powerful antioxidants, which include phytochemicals such as anthocyanins,’’ says Wilhelmina Kalt, a food chemist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in Kentville, N.S.
Antioxidants help neutralize unstable molecules known as free radicals and keep us healthy. Phytochemicals or anthocyanin pigments are highly concentrated and can be found in the deep-blue skin of wild blueberries.
"A food high in antioxidants helps prevent cell damage from free radicals,’’ Kalt says.
But more important, antioxidants may offer a defence against heart disease, stroke, some cancers, urinary tract infections and memory loss.
The most obvious difference between cultivated blueberries — found in the fresh produce section of the supermarket or in vendors’ stalls in farmers markets and specialty stores — and wild blueberries is size, Kalt says.
"Wild blueberries and cultivated are two different species," she says. "To look at them visually, one is small the other big.
"When you go to the fresh produce section of the grocery store, you see the fresh big ones and those are cultivated. The wild ones are produced in eastern Canada and in Maine and they may be a quarter to half the size than the cultivated."
She adds, "Depending on specific nutrients, those that are concentrated in the peel of the fruit will be somewhat higher in the wild blueberries because they are naturally smaller and more compact and deliver more berries per pound."
In addition, wild blueberries hold their shape, texture and deep-blue colour through a variety of baking and manufacturing processes.
Kalt says that as more research on the benefits of wild blueberries grows, food scientists are discovering their value as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Place ingredients in a blender and blend smooth.
Blueberries à la crème
Divide wild blueberries between 4 heatproof ramekins. Combine sour cream, yogurt and cinnamon and spread over blueberries, covering completely. Sprinkle brown sugar over cream mixture and broil 8 cm (3 inches) from heat source until sugar bubbles and caramelizes, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve while topping is still hot.
Wild Blueberry Crisp
1. Preheat oven to 160 C (325 F).
2. Grease a 20-by-20-cm (8-by-8-inch) pan.
3. For the filling, in a small bowl, combine wild blueberries, apples, sugar and lemon rind. Mix well and pour into prepared pan.
4. In a medium bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, pecans, if using, oats and salt. Rub in butter with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
5. Spread evenly over wild blueberry filling and bake for 45 minutes or until crust is browned.