Blueberry: a modern fruit with ancient roots
Blueberries grow on all continents and in various climates, either wild (also known as bilberries) or cultivated. They have grown naturally in Europe since the Neolithic period and were a prized fruit of American native people for many centuries. The farmed varieties, which produce bigger and juicier fruits and grow on higher bushes to facilitate harvesting, were only developed in the early 20th Century in the US and were later introduced in Europe, where they thrive throughout the continent and are now also grown commercially in North Africa, Asia, Australia and Oceania. They are considered as “super-fruits”, like blackcurrants, because they contain high levels of vitamins A, B, C and trace minerals including iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorous. There are reputed to improve nighttime eyesight and were popular among RAF fighter pilots during WWII. They are widely used in pastry-making (in particular in pies and muffins), ice-cream and sorbets, either fresh or as purées, coulis, jellies, etc. They are also appreciated as a condiment in savory dishes, such as game or poultry, prepared like their close cousin, the cranberry.