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Blueberries – wild or cultivated they’re delicious

Everyone loves the blueberry season. Delicious eaten raw by the handful, they’re also a summer treat in yoghurts and sorbets, muffins and crêpes. If you have access to large quantities you can make juice and jam. The Swedes love their blueberry soup served with small semolina dumplings, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dash of cream. Or use them to add unusual colour to salads or a piquant risotto.

Blueberries and bilberries

Blueberries belong to the heath family (Ericaceae). There are significant differences between the blueberry cultivar (Vaccinium corymbosum) and the bilberry that grows wild in coniferous forests, moors and heathland all over northern Europe (Vaccinium myrtillus). Bilberries grow up to 50 cm high with pea-sized, blue-black berries that are very aromatic. The intense blue colour is due to the blue pigment anthocyanin. Anthocyanins are phytochemicals and they are among the antioxidants that protect the body from harmful free radicals. Other valuable ingredients are fibre, fruit acids, manganese and magnesium, vitamin E and vitamin C. Wild bilberries are gathered widely in Central and Eastern Europe. However, they are rarely found in the shops. Fruit from the forest should always be washed well, as it can be contaminated with the eggs of the fox bandworm.

Cultivated blueberries are more readily available

In the supermarket, consumers are much more likely to get cultivated blueberries. It is originally native to North America and does not originate from the European forest bilberry. The cherry-sized fruits grow on bushes up to two meters high and have a much sweeter but less intense taste. The pulp is firm and has only a few seeds. The mineral and vitamin content is much the same as that of the wild bilberries. The anthocyanin, however, is only present in the skin, while the juice and pulp are colourless. One advantage is that you won’t get blue teeth from eating them.

 

Until the end of October, blueberries are available from local or regional growers. The fruit is relatively very sensitive, so that it should be transported carefully and eaten quickly.

 

Source: Heike Kreutz, www.bzfe.de