There is nothing quite like the sweet taste of a fresh, ripe blueberry. These small, plump berries with their deep, rich color are amazingly versatile and their fresh, fruity flavour can serve to enhance many foods as well as being a delicious addition to a variety of dishes including pancakes, pies, tarts, muffins, sauces and cakes.
I have used blueberries for baking muffins or scones and have only added them to breakfast cereal or oatmeal as an afterthought. Recently, I came across some dried blueberries and decided to try a combination of fresh blueberries, sweet dried blueberries and some added tangy lemon to make a tasty, healthy breakfast granola or anytime snack.
In the history of blueberries, a relative of the blueberry plant is described as “the oldest living thing on earth, estimated by botanists to be more than 13,000 years old.” Wild blueberries have been harvested in North America for centuries and over the years have been used in many ways including eaten fresh, preserved, used as medicine and dyes for baskets and cloth.
According to food reference, it is believed that Northeast Native American tribes revered blueberries and there is folklore around the berries. As the blossom end of each berry forms the shape of a perfect five-pointed star, it is believed that “the elders of the tribe would tell of how the Great Spirit sent star berries to relieve the children’s hunger during a famine.”
Commercially grown blueberries (high bush and low bush)
Unlike any other fruit in Canada, Agriculture Canada talks of blueberries that are commercially grown in both wild and cultivated varieties.
Wild blueberries are know as “lowbush” and they are not planted but rather “managed” and spread naturally by means of underground runners. As a result of this the berries are often not uniform in appearance and are mostly scooped up by mechanical pickers and destined for processing and freezing.
“Highbush” refers to cultivated blueberry plants. These were developed from the wild variety in the first half of the 20th century and resulted in the plump, juicy, sweet and easy to pick blueberry enjoyed today. The berries are larger and less perishable than lowbush berries and are usually hand picked and sold fresh.
Nutritional Value of Blueberries
Blueberries are low in calories but high in fibre and nutrients and extremely rich in antioxidants. They may contribute to heart health since they appear to act as an anti-inflammatory and may reduce blood cholesterol levels.
Recipe for Double Blueberry, Lemon and Almond Granola
This sweet and tangy granola is vegan and gluten free and full of wholesome ingredients and by making your own, you can control the amount of sugars, fats and overall ingredients to suit your preferences.
- 2 1/2 cups (200gm) rolled oats (or gluten free)
- 1/4 cup buckwheat groats
- 1/4 cup flaxmeal
- 1 cup of chopped almonds
- 1/2 cup blueberries
- 1/3 cup dried blueberries
- 1 tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon zest
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 tbs almond butter
- 3 tbs maple syrup
- 3 tbs melted coconut oil
- 3 tbs lemon juice (1 small lemon)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°C (175°F).
- In large bowl mix oats, buckwheat groats, flaxmeal, salt and almonds (I used whole almonds and you can chop these or grind them in a food processor for about 30 secs to 1 min depending how small you like the chunks).
- Combine coconut sugar with lemon zest and add to mixture.
- Heat almond butter, maple syrup and coconut oil over low heat until blended and then mix in lemon juice and vanilla extract. Mix with dry ingredients.
- Mix in fresh blueberries and spread on baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Bake for about 25 minutes turning halfway through.
- Leave to cool and then add dried blueberries. This will keep for about a week in airtight container.
Much as we love blueberries, bears have also had a history with them and have been known to feast on the succulent, juicy blueberries when they are in season and will travel, with an empty stomach, from ten to fifteen miles per day to seek out a blueberry patch.
I enjoy the sweet juicy berry too but wonder if I would be willing to do the same! Apparently a relatively new delicacy gaining popularity is wild blueberry juice. This is not something I have ever tried but I can imagine it would be very tasty and perhaps even worth a bit of a hike to find!