The Health Benefits of Wild Blueberries

Uploaded by TheUniversityofMaine on 21.10.2010

Narrator: “Maine has 60,000 acres of wild blueberries, and those berries are shipped
to consumers all over the world.” Theresa Gaffney, blueberry grower: “There
is definitely a taste of wild Maine in blueberries.” Kristen McGovern, blueberry grower and research
scientist: “The reason that wild blueberries are called wild does not have anything to
do with their management, actually. It’s because they bounce around on the conveyor
belts in the most beautiful fashion, and they act wild.”
Mary Ellen Camire, food scientist: “Wild blueberries do have a different chemical profile
than the cultivated blueberries. There are two main species in the U.S. that are grown
besides ours, and they are very different.” McGovern: “Well, they are wild-managed.
They occur naturally in the environment in forest understories, but then you just manage
the land around there to make the environment best for them.”
Dave Yarborough, Cooperative Extension specialist: “In the United States, 99 percent of all
wild blueberries are produced in Maine. Our blueberries are different in that they occur
naturally. They did come in about 10,000 years ago with the glacier: very poor nutrients,
very poor water holding capacity, and blueberries do very well in that type of environment.”
Camire: “As fruits go, wild blueberries are always ranked as one of the higher fruits
in terms of antioxidants. The unique aspect of blueberries is that their color comes from
these compounds called anthocyanins, and wild blueberries have 27. Many fruits only have
one or two.” Gaffney: “We were talking about how wonderful
it was that we got to grow blueberries and that when you put them in your mouth, they
pop when you bite into them.” McGovern: “They’re round, they’re perfect
fruits, they have this protective skin. But because they’re round, they can do things
that other fruits can’t do. It’s true.” Camire: “It’s great to have a healthful
food, but if no one wants to eat it, there’s no point. So one of the things we do is make
sure that
the food is acceptable to consumers.” McGovern: “My favorite blueberry food is
blueberry crisp.” Gaffney: “A blueberry leather.”
Camire: “Blueberry wines.” McGovern: “Blueberry smoothies.”
Camire: “Blueberry juices.” Gaffney: “Blueberry tea.”
Yarborough: “Blueberry buckle.” Camire: “Blueberry yogurt drinks.”
McGovern: “I mean, just straight blueberries.” Narrator: “The University of Maine supports
the blueberry industry by providing major research and product development.”
Camire: “My colleague, Al Bushway, incorporated a blueberry puree into hamburger. And since
there are many antibacterial compounds in blueberries, mixing the blueberry puree in
with the burger could help kill the bacteria and make it safer to eat.”
Al Bushway, food scientist: “We were quite successful incorporating them both into beef
and also into ground turkey. Dr. Tom Yang was able to come up with the blueberry raisin
back in the 1980s, and he looked at the methods that could be used to actually remove water
while, at the same time, incorporating sugar into the berry.”
Maine is the largest producer of wild blueberries in the world. Like apples, blueberries come
in many different varieties, though none are officially named. One individual blueberry
bush is called a “clone.” One clone can reach more than 100 meters wide and live to
be hundreds of years old. The antioxidants in wild blueberries contain anti-aging and
anti-cancer properties and have been linked to heart health. Animal trials have shown
blueberries to improve motor skills and reverse short-term memory loss.
Camire: “They’re small, but they’re like a little diamond.”
Watch the video entitled “Blueberry Research” to learn how UMaine scientists are helping