Dietribes: Blueberries


• Blue foods are a rare occurrence in nature, as it often suggests that the food is toxic or rotten. But not so for blueberries! One of the only truly blue foods, it's distinctive coloring comes from anthocyanin, a water soluble pigment.

• It's unusual when our favorite foods featured on Dietribes are native to North America, but again the blueberry breaks the mold! It shares the honor of being a native fruit with cranberries and Concord grapes.

• As most of you already know, blueberries are antioxident powerhouses, containing natural compounds that help us stay healthy and may prevent age-related diseases (including Alzheimer's and some forms of cancer).

• The Wampanoag Indians included blueberry crops as part of their educational sharing with settlers. Since they can be dried, stored, preserved and canned, blueberries became an important early-American food source. In fact, a favorite dish during colonial times was Sautauthig, a simple pudding made with blueberries, cracked corn (or samp) and water, which may have been part of the first Thanksgiving. In true American form, settlers later added milk, butter and sugar when they were available.
• Robert Frost even wrote a lovely poem about blueberries (titled … "Blueberries") - doesn't this make you salivate? "You ought to have seen how it looked in the rain / The fruit mixed with water in layers of leaves, / Like two kinds of jewels, a vision for thieves.”

• How delicious are blueberries? Delicious enough for Crayola’s blueberry-scented crayons to be discontinued shortly after their release in the mid-90s. Parents complained that it might tempt children to eat the crayons (but doesn't everything tempt children to eat almost anything?)
• The memorable scene in Willy Wonka where Violet Beareguarde swells up into a blueberry was done in two takes: first they blew her up, then they stuffed her through a styrofoam cutout. Apparently when rolling her around in the blueberry suit, the Oompa Loompas often lost control, crashing her into the wall several times.

• More of the blueberry in America: it became the official state fruit of NJ in 2004 (Whitesbog, NJ is the birthplace of the cultivated blueberry), and the blueberry jellybean (currently one of the most popular flavors) was created in 1981 for the President Reagan's inauguration so that there would be red, white and blue varieties.

• There are blueberry festivals all over the United States during most parts of the year. Have any of you been to one?

• I am a recent convert to the blueberry and will never look back! I just picked up some chocolate-covered blueberries this weekend, too - and yes, they are delicious!

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‘Dietribes’ appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach. You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.