Some blueberries still ripening, can protect against diseases

Special to the Herald-Guide
June 10, 2010 at 9:43 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Some blueberries still ripening, can protect against diseases
D Sharon Pruitt
By Deniese Hatty Zeringue MS, LSU AgCenter Extension Agent

Enjoy Louisiana blueberries - they can help protect against diseases, including certain cancers and heart disease.

The Rabbiteye blueberry is most successfully grown in the South. Some varieties of Rabbiteye blueberries begin ripening the first week of June and others through the early part of July.

"The soils in many parts of Louisiana tend to be acid, and this is perfect for growing Rabbiteye blueberries," according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dan Gill. He said blueberry bushes are excellent for small gardens, since they stay much smaller than most fruit trees. Plants need a spacing of only about 6 feet.

Blueberries and other brightly colored berries contain vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and phytochemicals, which are nonnutritive substances in plants that promote health and prevent chronic disease.

Antioxidants are phytochemicals that help neutralize harmful by-products of metabolism called free radicals that contribute to heart disease and other diseases.

Blueberries are nature's number one source of antioxidants among fresh fruits and vegetables according to the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

In addition, blueberries are a low-calorie food – only 40 calories in one-half cup. They also are a good source of vitamin C and fiber. Blueberries  also contain compounds that may help to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), according to a report from the Rutgers Blueberry Cranberry Research Center in Chatsworth, New Jersey. The compounds can keep the bacteria responsible for UTIs from attaching to the linings of the urinary and digestive tracts.

Store fresh blueberries in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks, and wash them just before you use them, not ahead of time or they'll get mushy.

Blueberries should be plump and firm with a dark blue color and waxy, silvery "bloom." Sweetness varies by variety.

Blueberries do not ripen after harvest, so as soon as you buy them, you can eat them. One pint of berries will provide four to five servings of fresh uncooked fruit.

Handle fruit gently to avoid bruising. Sort carefully and remove berries that are too soft or decayed. Store berries loosely in a shallow container to allow air circulation and to prevent the berries on top from crushing those underneath. Store covered containers of berries in a cool, moist area of the refrigerator, such as in the hydrator (vegetable keeper).

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