Happy 100th Birthday, Blueberry!
Happy 100th Birthday, Blueberry! It was 100 years ago in 1916 that the first major blueberry crop went to market, thanks in large part to Elizabeth Coleman White (a.k.a. The Blueberry Queen). Ms. White was intrigued by the delicious wild berry growing in Burlington County, New Jersey in the early 1900s. She decided to dedicate her life to studying, understanding, and cultivating the unusual and largely unknown blueberry, then known as the ' Swamp Huckleberry'.
White was familiar with a book about blueberries written by Frederic Coville, and no one had yet successfully cultivated wild blueberries. With the help of her father, Joseph White, she began collecting blueberry bushes from the locals in her area, paying two dollars for each blueberry bush. When she felt she had enough bushes to work with, White started cross breeding the different blueberry plants in an effort to produce a uniformly sweet and marketable berry. At one point, they had 90 acres of blueberries.
Today, more than 150 varieties of blueberries are available, and more are being discovered every year. New Jersey calls the blueberry its state fruit, but they are not the largest producer of the blueberry. Currently, Washington State produces the most blueberries at over 100 million pounds. Even though the US and Canada are responsible for the large majority of blueberry production, over 1 billion blueberries are grown globally each year. However, Atlantic County in New Jersey is still known as "The Blueberry Capital of the World".
In recent decades, the popularity of blueberries has exploded. Blueberries are an extremely versatile food, and can be easily frozen, dried, cooked, or eaten raw. The skin is thin, and the seeds are small enough to hardly even be noticed when consuming blueberries. They are good as snacks, or in sauces, salads, desserts, drinks, and even as part of an entrée.
One of the most important reasons for the increase in popularity for blueberries is the list of health benefits associated with this delicious fruit that is native to North America. It is high in antioxidants, flavonoids, anthocyanins, vitamins, fiber, and much more. Blueberries have been known to help with ailments such as cancer, brain disease, dementia, skin problems, and many more.
If you don't eat blueberries often, you should drive your local grocery store and pick up a pound or two today! There are countless recipes on ways to eat them, and you'll be doing your body a favor. Enjoy!