For me the best berry of all. I have actually never met somebody that doesn’t like blueberries. Their elegant sweetness combined with a concise flavour makes this fruit an everybody’s darling. Let me give you a short general overview about this gorgeous ingredient, which flavours accompany best with blueberries and last but not least put a spotlight on their nutritional values. Let’s get it on!
General Facts About Blueberries
As a geek pleaser let us start with the latin term. Therefore we have to distinguish between two varieties of blueberries: the European blueberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and the American blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). The American blueberry is probably the most common of both, as it grows faster and bigger fruits that are more durable. No wonder the industry is mainly using them for cultivation as they are way more profitable. But, the European blueberry is way more aromatic, have a higher amount of beneficial nutrients that are within their powerful red-violet flesh – the American blueberry has white flesh. I’ll catch that point up later in this post when I talk about the nutritional benefits.
European blueberries are also known as wild berries. Simply because they are not often cultivated industrially and you have to go to the forest to pick them on your own. I used to do that a lot when I was a kid. They grow from July to September. Be prepared for mosquitos. They hang around massively in wild blueberry bushes. I know what I am talking about. Been there, done that. Thank me later!
The global consumption of blueberries in 2018 wasSource: FAOSTAT
Assuming a blueberry weights 2 gramms that would mean a total number of 341,395,000,000 blueberries. Shared equally among the global population of 7,6 billion people in 2018, that makes 45 blueberries per person.
Which Ingredients Go Well with Blueberries?
First of, important to know: the actual flavour of the blueberry is mainly concentrated within and under their skin. The smaller the berries, the more flavour you get out of the same mass. Unfortunately for us, as we know that the cultivated blueberry – the one we usually buy – is quite big in comparison to the wild berry. So, less flavour for us. That’s why you should always go for wild berries if you can get them. Blueberries have a unique and delicate fragrant flavour. The charming floral notes of this fruit lift them up from the ordinary to the elegant. That’s why we love it. Like a fragrance that everybody would buy as a matter of course.
Blueberries unfold their flavour when prepared with sugar. Like massively. The most simple way to prepare a blueberry sauce is to set up sugar in a pan or pot on medium heat, wait until the sugar melts and add fresh blueberries before it gets brown. The blueberries will instantly lose their juice which hardens the caramel for a moment but dissolves it soonly. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes and you will have a nice, sweet and pure blueberry sauce for pancakes, cheesecakes or ice cream. For more complexity in terms of flavour, here are some of the blueberry’s best friends.
Everything with vanilla goes perfectly well with blueberries. So either you use blueberries in addition to something that is vanilla based or you put a little bit of vanilla in your blueberry dish. These two ingredients won’t steal each others show and are a real dream team. Of course they are as vanilla has a very female sweet-floral character that suits perfectly to the slightly more bold floral notes of the blueberry.
In Europe a rather unknown combination yet a true winner. But unlike vanilla cinnamon tend to dominate if used too generously. You should definitely go with cinnamon from Ceylon, which means originated in Sri Lanka. This cinnamon is softer and not as harsh as cassia cinnamon, which you generally should never use, but that is different story. This combination is mainly useful in bakery. Blueberry muffins for instance. Mix cinnamon and sugar into warm molten butter and brush the top of your muffins with this mixture while they are still hot/warm. This will give your blueberry muffins a nice little but effective twist without making them into cinnamon muffins.
To me citrus fruits are true bitches of the fruit basket. They just make out with everything. If you don’t have an idea what suits your ingredients, grab a lemon, orange or lime. One of them will do the job. And surprise, surprise, the blueberry has a prime bitch as well: the lemon. Of course the lemon. It has the most delicate and floral flavour of those three which turns into the same harmony like blueberries and vanilla. But it is not the cozy and relaxed relationship like the vanilla romance. Lemon brings fresh and excited moments into the blueberries life. But, and this one is a major “but”, only work with the lemon peel! Acidity conceals the flowery and sweet flavour of blueberries. The more acidity, the less blueberry you will taste. That’s why sour blueberries taste like nothing but sour. Lemon juice would ruin it. Get out your zest grater and start the lemon blueberry party.
We should have learned 3 important things by now:
1. Sweetness is a must have to enhance a blueberry’s flavour.
2. Acidity is a no-go.
3. The elegant flowery notes of a blueberry can be dominated easily by strong flavours.
This leads us to fruits that are very sweet with little to no acidity and just subtle flavours that are easily dominated by other flavours. Think of any fruit that meets this criteria and you will have a suitable companion for the blueberry. I can spontaneously name you sweet apples, ripe pears, slightly greenish bananas and peaches. But there is definitely more out there to match. That’s your turn, get creative and let me know if you have a combination I just have to try myself. Just comment it on this post.
You see, blueberries are quite versatile in terms of flavour pairing and also a great stand alone flavour ingredient. No wonder the whole world loves it. But some people not only love them for their taste but for their health benefits and use them frequently in their antioxidant smoothies. Let’s lift the curtain and see if the blueberry is on eye level with the hype.
Nutritional Values and Benefits of Blueberries
Blueberries are claimed to be super healthy. Health magazines and similar sources promote their anti-cancer, anti-aging and healthy-aging effects. But is all this true? The hype concerning these health affecting effects comes from the colouring of the blueberries that is in the outer peel and in the flesh of wild berries. This colouring is caused by anthocyanins, water-soluble pigments in plants. They have a certain antioxidant performance within your body. Studies proved, that these effects are indeed significant in vitro (simply said: in a Petri dish) but they have no significant influence concerning anti-cancer, anti-aging or healthy-aging effects in vivo (in our body). Our metabolism is not made to efficiently use the full antioxidant potential of those anthocyanins.
But there is more antioxidative potential in a blueberry than just its colouring. Vitamins A, C and E are as well antioxidants that are essential for our body. And the blueberry has all of them. But is it an over performing in vitamins? I did a little research and compared it with two of our most popular berries: strawberry and raspberry. Here are the results:
As you can see none of the three is the winner of the competition. Each of them has their highs and lows. But the blueberry definitely leaves the raspberry behind when it comes to antioxidant vitamins. The strawberry has more than twice as much vitamin C than the blueberry but sucks at vitamin E. Here owns the blueberry the place. And vitamin E is more crucial to our nutrition as we easily reach our vitamin C level with a regular nutrition with vegs and fruits. The blueberry is among all popular berries the one with the highest concentration of vitamin E. You cover around 18% of your daily needs of vitamin E with 100g blueberries. A regular portion for one person is about 250g which almost cover half of what you need per day.
And we haven’t looked at the minerals yet. Blueberries have a good amount of iron. A 100g cover your daily needs of iron to 5%. That’s not much compared to parsley but a good start to reach your 100%. And with only 42 calories per 100g you could easily cover 25% with a pound of them. Especially good to know for you ladies out there that have the tendency to a rather low iron content.
Is the blueberry the miracle of superfoods that performs magic in terms of curing cancer and eternal youth? Definitely not. Is it a delicious fruit with ingredients that have beneficial value to your health? Oh yes!
You can stop wasting this delicious fruit as a minor part in your smoothies for health reasons. It will not make you younger or immortal. Start using its flavour and enjoy it with the hints I gave you in this post. If you want to do something healthy, have a walk in the forest in summer and pick wild berries. That will be beneficial for your health and your palate ;).