For most city dwellers it is a luxury to draw a full breath of fresh mountain air, or to immerse in the beauty of vibrant fields and lush green forests. Once outside, there are many attractions waiting for your entire family, picking blueberries is but one of them. There are different types of berries that are generally categorized as blueberries: huckleberry, grouseberry, and bilberry are just some varieties. While their individual compositions vary slightly, the blueberry in all of its varieties is a treasure trove of antioxidants, minerals (selenium, zinc, copper, manganese and others), vitamins (C, A, B1, B2), as well as flavonoids. Most important, however, is that blueberries are sweet and delicious, your kids will love them, and of course, they turn you tongue blue.
Wild blueberries (the huckleberry, grouseberry, and bilberry variety among others) are a small fruit that have a waxy, dark blue (in some cases almost black) outer skin. The blue coloring is an anthocyanin pigment that has bactericidal properties. They are smaller and much darker than their agricultural counterparts that we commonly see on the store shelves. Shrubs grow predominantly in the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, in coniferous forests and shrub-land habitats of both highlands and lowlands, and rarely exceed 19 inches (50 cm) in height. The fruits are ripe for picking in June and last the entire summer until the end of September.
Years ago blueberries were picked for their wide array of medicinal properties; a truly natural medicine. Blueberries have been found to have a positive impact on memory retention, on improving eyesight, and they are proven to lower the level of LDL cholesterol. Furthermore, they can be used to prevent and treat anemia and increase the elasticity of blood vessels. Blueberry syrup can be used to treat cough and respiratory infections and repair gastric mucous membranes. Dried fruits help relieve diarrhea, while fresh fruits on the other hand increase bowel movement and help with detoxification. The blueberry may be small, but its health benefits are enormous.
To get a good dose of ‘natural medicine’ found in blueberries you need to, well… ‘stuff your face’ with blueberries. Keep your eyes open for blueberry shrubs when hiking in the forest. Once you hit the jackpot you can eat the barriers right off the shrubs. If you find a blueberry forest that’s easily accessible you can do picking trips: bring a few 1-quart (1 liter) containers and get your family picking. Once home, the berries offer endless opportunities for baking muffins and cakes, making jams, on pancakes, crepes, ice cream, smoothies, and more. Importantly, it is a great experience for kids to prepare and consume foods that they picked themselves, as it helps them understand the source of their meals and connects them to the natural environment.
Blueberries in hand, try one of the following very simple recipes:
- 12 oz (350 g) flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- ½ cup sugar (preferably brown)
- 9 oz (250 g) blueberries (freshly picked – we hope – otherwise from the store fresh or frozen)
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- 4 tablespoons butter or olive oil (4.2 fluid oz or 125 ml)
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix together all of the ingredients except the berries. Once mixed, add the berries and mix carefully so as to not ‘pop’ them. Pour the batter into muffin cups about ⅔ full. Preheat the oven to 3500 F (1750 C) and bake for 20 minutes. Once baked, you can sprinkle the muffins with icing sugar, if you’re into that sort of thing.
- 3 cups of fresh blueberries
- 3 cups of natural yogurt
- 2 cups of milk (full-bodied tastes best)
- 8 tablespoons of raw organic honey (adjust to your taste)
- 10 ice cubes
- A few drops of vanilla (it is best to use an organic vanilla extract)
- Fresh mint – as garnish
Fire away in a blender until perfectly smooth. Pour into serving glasses, and place a leaf or two of mint on top. Keep in mind that using raw organic honey is a much healthier alternative to sugar. Nutrish and delish – perfect for a hot summer day.
Got a great blueberry recipe that you would like to share with us? Send it to us and we may post it on TheHikingChild. Want other ideas? The next article in our forest fruit series is coming up very soon: Pick Your Own Wild Raspberries. Subscribe below to TheHikingChild and get notified when it’s here.