Why are these blueberry bushes planted here at Wagner Farm Arboretum?
Blueberry bushes play a very significant role in the ecosystem, acting as a pollinator supporting local bee and butterfly populations. In recent years, the bee population at Wagner Farm Arboretum has decreased significantly as a result of environmental factors such as habitat fragmentation, use of pesticides and even Super-storm Sandy is believed to have placed an effect on the bee population.
Broadly, vaccinium species are classified according to their growth habit as high-bush and low-bush berries:
- High-bush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) is a highly branched, erect deciduous shrub with rich foliage. It grows up to 10-12 feet tall in cultivated orchards and bears clusters of small, cream-white flowers during spring, which subsequently develop into tiny berries after about two months. In the wild, high bush-blueberry is found on the edges of marshes, lakes, ponds, and streams. Rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium virgatum, also known as V. ashei.) is a medium-sized shrub grows naturally in South Eastern parts of USA.
- Low-bush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) is a short, erect plant that grows about one-two feet in height and spread through underground rhizomes. Under the cultivated farms, it is grown as two-year cycle crop, since the whole plant is either mowed down or burnt to allow new shoots that appear only during the next season.
Both species require well-drained sandy, acidic soil to flourish. This berry shrub prefers open sunny conditions and is intolerant of shade. In general, the berries can be ready to harvest when they turn completely blue from green-pink, soft, juicy, and sweeter. Traditionally, they are gathered by hand, and therefore, require intense laboring. Soon after the berries are separated from the shrub, they are sorted and transported to cold facility for storage.
Health benefits of blueberries
Sweet, juicy blueberries are rich in natural pro-anthocyanin pigment anti-oxidants. These tiny, round blue-purple berries have long been attributed to the longevity and wellness of indigenous natives living around subarctic regions in the Northern hemisphere.
Blueberries are very low in calories. 100 g fresh berries carry just 57 calories. Nonetheless, they possess notable health benefits such as soluble dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins, and pigment anti-oxidants that contribute immensely towards optimum health and wellness.
Blueberries are among the highest anti-oxidant value fruits, protecting the human body from cancers, aging, degenerative diseases, and infections. Further, research studies suggest that chlorogenic acid in these berries helps lower blood sugar levels and controls blood-glucose levels in type-II diabetes. Fresh berries carry small amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E. Altogether, these vitamins work as potent anti-oxidants which help limit free radical mediated injury to the body.
The berries also carry a small amount of B-complex vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine, folates and pantothenic acid. These vitamins act as co-factors that help in metabolism of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Furthermore, they contain a good amount of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, iron and zinc.
7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Blueberries
- Blueberries protect against memory loss. A 2012 study suggested that eating at least one serving of blueberries a week slowed cognitive decline by several years. One possible explanation as to why came from a 2013 study in mice, which found that berries might protect the brain by clearing toxic proteins that accumulate there.
- Maine produces more blueberries than anywhere else in the world. According to the University of Maine, at least.
- They can be used as a natural food dye. And legend has it that early American colonists boiled them with milk to make gray paint, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s Fruits & Veggies More Matters campaign.
- The perfect blueberry should be “dusty” in color.
- But don’t wash off that “dust” until you’re ready to dig in. A rinse softens your blueberries, which can quicken spoiling, according to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
- The blueberry bush is a relative of the rhododendron, the azalea, and along more intuitive lines- the cranberry as well.
- Many blueberry-flavored processed foods do not contain any real blueberries. Products such as bagels, cereals, breads and muffins from brands like Kellogg’s, Betty Crocker and General Mills were reported to use combos of sugar, corn syrup, starch, oil and artificial flavors and dyes to create their own mock blueberries, according to a 2011 Consumer Wellness Center investigation, the LA Times reported.