Map - Blueberry Acreage, 1997

Michigan leads the nation in blueberry production, producing nearly 45% of the blueberries eaten in the U.S. In 1997, the state produced 76 million pounds of the small, round berry.
    Acidic soil is required to grow blueberries, along with adequate water and cool temperatures. Low growing season temperatures allow a dormant period for blueberry bushes, a climatic factor that promotes higher yields. Allegan, Berrien, Muskegon, Ottawa and Van Buren counties on the western side of Michigan's lower peninsula comprise the state's primary blueberry growing region. Harvest season begins in mid-July and ends in late September.

Source:  Photograph by Randy Schaetzl, Professor of Geography - Michigan State University

    When buying blueberries, look for firm, plump berries that have a powdery, grayish-blue color. To prevent fresh berries from turning soft, wash them just before eating. When storing, wrap tightly and refrigerate. Do not wash them before freezing. If washed, they turn into a solid form and become mushy upon thawing. Instead, blueberries should be frozen so they pour individually from an air-tight bag or container.

Blueberries grow on small woody bushes, making picking very easy and enjoyable.

Source:  Photograph by Randy Schaetzl, Professor of Geography - Michigan State University

Source:  Photograph by Randy Schaetzl, Professor of Geography - Michigan State University

BLUEBERRIES.....the Brain Food
(this from Newsweek, June 12, 2002)

Think of berries (all of them) as antioxidant pills—without the need for a visit to the pharmacy. Antioxidants help prevent cellular damage caused by compounds called free radicals. A few years ago Tufts scientists measured the antioxidant levels of 50 fresh fruits and vegetables, and found the top slots were occupied by berries. Much of that antioxidant strength comes from the anthocyanin pigments that tint berries red, purple and blue. The darker the berry, the stronger the protective pigments. In April, physiologist David Bell of the Indiana University School of Medicine reported that extracts of a dark berry called the chokeberry completely shielded coronary arteries in test-tube studies against free radicals that are a prime culprit in heart disease.

And when it comes to brain protection, there’s nothing quite like blueberries, according to Tufts neuroscientist James Joseph, coauthor of “The Color Code,” a new book about the virtues of eating colorful foods. In one set of tests, Joseph put rats into chambers containing 100% oxygen to mimic the oxidative damage accompanying brain aging. Unprotected rats seemed to age overnight, but blueberry-fed rats had no damage at all. In his best-known set of experiments, aging blueberry-fed rats showed actual improvements on cognitive and motor-skills tests. “I call the blueberry the brain berry,” says Joseph, who attibutes the effects to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Berries also show promise in helping to ward off cancer. Microbiologist Lyndon Larcom at Clemson University has just completed a series of test-tube studies indicating that both strawberries and raspberries can block carcinogens of two classes—some that are directly toxic, others that are activated by the body’s own metabolic processes.

How many berries do we need to eat? No one really knows. But this spring the National Cancer Institute launched a campaign called Savor the Spectrum, urging Americans to eat fruits and vegetables from each color group every day—orange, red, green and blue-purple. Berries are among the rare blue and purple foods. With the USDA Food Guide Pyramid recommending five to nine servings of produce daily, says Stoner, “let one of your daily helpings of fruit be berries of some sort.” It seems they’re berry, berry good. more blueberries!

Source:  Photograph by Randy Schaetzl, Professor of Geography - Michigan State University

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