Blueberries are flowering plants native to North America (Canada). Scientific name of blueberries is Vaccinium corymbosum, belonging to the heather family (Ericaceae).
These perennial shrubs produce fruits that are initially green when unripe then turn into reddish-purple and lastly into bluish-purple as they ripen. These fruits are either grown in the wild or cultivated in fields. True wild blueberries only grow in eastern and north-central North America.
Berries which belong to other species like huckleberries and bilberries which are from western North America and Europe, respectively, may look very much alike to the true wild blueberries. That is why they are sometimes referred to as blueberries. In order to distinguish blueberries from bilberries, the fruits must be cut in half. Ripe blueberries have white or greenish flesh, while bilberries and huckleberries are colored purple throughout.
Since blueberries are now cultivated, they are now grown around the world. South Africa is now exporting blueberries to Europe and Chile is the largest exporter to the northern hemisphere. There are various varieties of blueberries which differ in sizes of the shrubs and sweetness of the fruits. The highbush blueberries are widespread in Europe since it was first introduced in Germany in the 1930's. This is probably the most popular variety because it is commonly sold in the supermarkets.
Blueberries maybe small in size but the facts behind them are big time revelations, here are some interesting trivias about blueberries:
- Early American settlers made grey paint by boiling blueberries in milk. The blue paint used to paint woodwork in Shaker houses was made from sage blossoms, indigo and blueberry skins, mixed in milk.
- The blueberry is the official berry of Nova Scotia and the official state fruit of New Jersey.
- If all the blueberries grown in North America in one year were spread out in a single layer, they would cover a four-lane highway that stretched from New York to Chicago. (The Great Food Almanac)
- The bold blue color of the blueberry is derived from the bold high content of anthocyanin. It is a water soluble pigment that gives colors ranging from blue to shades of red.
- The blueberry is the second most popular berry in the U.S., the strawberry is number one. Over 200 million pounds of blueberries are grown commercially each year.