Celebrate National Blueberry Month

July 08, 2011

Blueberries are an antioxidant-rich food and probably the easiest fruit to prepare and serve. There's no peeling, pitting, coring or cutting. Just rinse, eat and enjoy.  

Blueberries are low in fat, sodium-free and a good source of both fiber and vitamin C. A 1/2 cup serving of blueberries has 25 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, 3 grams of dietary fiber, numerous other disease-fighting nutrients, and approximately 40 calories.  

Blueberries are not only a good source of fiber and vitamin C, which have shown to reduce the risk of chronic disease, but their blue pigment has antioxidant properties.  

If you are picking or purchasing fresh blueberries, know that blueberries, even those on the same bush, do not all ripen at the same time. Under normal growing conditions, blueberries ripen over a period of three to four weeks. Blueberries are ready for harvest no sooner than three to four days after the fruit becomes fully blue. Blueberries can remain on the plant for seven to 10 days after they have become ripe without significant loss in quality. However, they will not continue to ripen after being picked.

Ripe blueberries should have a completely uniform blue color. Fruit with a red tinge is less mature and will not be as sweet as more mature berries. For best results, blueberries should be harvested carefully when they are dry and fully ripe. It is best to wait a few hours after a rain or heavy dew before harvesting. Wet berries are more susceptible to decay-causing organisms and often leak juice, causing them to resemble overripe berries.  

Blueberries react with metal, which causes both the berries and the metal to discolor, so don't store in metal containers. Put blueberries in a plastic container and refrigerate as soon as possible. For optimal storage, berries should be refrigerated, but not washed until needed; the added moisture hastens the growth of mold. Once chilled, berries will maintain their quality for 10 days.  

Only ripe, full-flavored blueberries should be frozen. The secret to successful freezing is to use berries that are unwashed and completely dry before placing them in the freezer. Washing blueberries before freezing can result in a tough-skinned product. Spread the dry blueberries in a single layer on a tray and allow them to dry so they won't stick together. Once dry, freeze them until solid, then pack the berries in labeled freezer containers.

Blueberries can also be canned in water, juice or syrup. For instructions, go to National Center for Home Food Preservation (  

Whether you are eating blueberries for the health benefits or just because you like their taste, they can be incorporated into many dishes that are easy to make, healthful and tasty.  

Visit and click on the consumer link for blueberry recipes, snack ideas and more.

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.

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