Going wild for blueberries
By Laura Aiken
By Laura Aiken
The fields of Canada’s Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Maine are the
only places in the world wild blueberries are commercially cultivated.
Harvested in late summer, these little gems have been linked to a range
of antioxidant benefits.
The fields of Canada’s Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Maine are the only places in the world wild blueberries are commercially cultivated. Harvested in late summer, these little gems have been linked to a range of antioxidant benefits.
|Wild blueberry oat muffins|
wild Blueberry Association of North America
The Wild Blueberry Association of North America (WBANA), an alliance of growers and processors in the Canadian cultivating provinces and in Maine, is a great resource for information on what makes wild (lowbush) blueberries unique. Wild blueberries have a particular tangy and sweet flavour, compact size that delivers maximum berries per portion and great performance in keeping their shape, texture and colour through a variety of manufacturing processes.
The WBANA compiled the results of various scientific studies to show the promise of blueberries as a functional food. Their high cellular anti-oxidant activity and ability to fight oxidative stress was published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and Journal of the American College of Nutrition respectively. Blueberries were observed to improve motor skills and the short term memory loss that comes with aging at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center.
Another study by the same research centre showed that a diet rich in blueberries was found to have a positive impact on inflammation at a cellular level, which resulted in better cognitive test results.
The Rutgers University Blueberry Cranberry Research Center showed that blueberries, like cranberries, have compounds that prevent the bacteria linked to urinary tract infections from attaching to the bladder wall.
These are just a few of the published scientific trials listed by the WBANA.
Quoting research from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the WBANA points out that wild blueberries rank number one in total antioxidant capacity per serving when compared with 20 other fruits. Scientists have linked wild blueberries to potential benefits in the areas of brain health, cancer prevention, and heart, urinary tract and vision health.
Wild blueberries are also low on the glycemic index. The fruit scored 53 on the Glycemic Index (GI) scale in a study conducted by Glycemic Index Laboratories Inc. A score of 55 or under is considered low and bear in mind the score can change under factors such as ripeness and cooking process. Wild blueberries also have a low glycemic load (GL), which is how fast the carbohydrate turns into sugar and how much of that carbohydrate the food contains. A half a cup of wild blueberries measures 6.5. A GL of 20 or more is high, 11 to 19 is medium and 10 or less is low. Low GI foods assist in stabilizing blood sugar levels and are of special interest to your diabetic clientele.
The WBANA licences their certification mark if you are looking to brand the ingredient on your packaging. Wild blueberries are available year round in various forms, including individually quick frozen, dried/dehydrated/sugar infused, canned, concentrate, puree, powder, extract and frozen fresh. They’re in season in August and September.
The WBANA website (listed below) also provides contact information for Canadian suppliers.
Wild Blueberry Oat Muffins
Recipe courtesy of The Wild Blueberry Association of North America
Makes 24 muffins.
- 2 cups wild blueberries, frozen
- 2 cups old fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 2 cups skim milk
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tbsp grated orange rind
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup wild blueberries, frozen
- 6 tbsp powdered sugar
Mix oats and milk in a bowl. Soak for about 10 minutes. Add egg, sugar, oil, orange rind and stir until well blended.
In a separate dish, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda and walnuts. Mix well and fold into oatmeal mixture until just moistened. Gently fold in 2 cups of blueberries.
Fill muffin pan 2/3 with batter. Sprinkle a few wild blueberries on top of each muffin. Bake for about 20 minutes at 425 F.
Using a strainer or sifter, sprinkle muffins with powdered sugar as they cool.
*This recipe was doubled in quantity from the original.