For a fun change of pace, consider spending an afternoon picking blueberries. Yes, I know that when people think of blueberries, they think of northern states like Michigan and Maine. But the truth is that different varieties of blueberries can grow in almost any temperate climate—from Florida to California. Which means, no matter where you live, you can take part in Pick Blueberries Day on July 10th (or the weekend before if you’re working) as a nice alternative to sitting on the couch, lying on the beach, or even jumping in and out of your car running errands. You might even feel a bit like you’re getting back to nature, walking around on a farm and gathering your own food.
It’s a great family activity, as even very young children are capable of pulling berries off a bush. Or it can make for a romantic sort of day with your significant other, holding hands as you stroll through the orchard and fill a bucket of blueberries. But either way, it’s a day spent outside, getting fresh air, and probably doing a decent amount of walking.
If the timing around July 10th doesn’t work for you, that’s ok. You can celebrate anytime during harvest season, which runs from mid May through mid September depending on where you live (but check with local you-pick farms before choosing your date to make sure they’ll be ready to harvest). Actually, fresh blueberries are now growing somewhere year round in the United States.
Fresh picked fruit is often at its peak in flavor, making it tasty to eat right away. But if you end up with too much to use immediately, blueberries freeze very well for up to six months with no notable decrease in their antioxidant levels. And blueberries are a great choice of fruit to opt for picking, because they are serious nutritional powerhouses.
Consider a few reasons why you should want to include blueberries in your diet:
- Blueberries benefit your brain. Associations have been discovered between blueberry consumption and better memory, coordination, and balance. And a 2010 study at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio found that eating blueberries regularly may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.1 Krikorian, Robert; et al. “Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 14 April 2010. Accessed 28 June 2017. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2850944/.
- Blueberries can help you manage diabetes. A 2013 study at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts showed that consumption of blueberries three times a week was linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.2 Muraki, Isao; et al. “Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies.” BMJ. 29 August 2013. Accessed 28 June 2017. http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f5001.
- Blueberries keep you heart healthy. The antioxidants in blueberries help protect your circulatory system from oxidative stress. And a 2015 study at Florida State University in Tallahassee found that consuming a cup of blueberries every day can provide a positive effect on both systolic and diastolic blood pressure within weeks.3 Johnson, Sarah A.; et al. “Daily Blueberry Consumption Improves Blood Pressure and Arterial Stiffness in Postmenopausal Women with Pre- and Stage 1-Hypertension: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 8 January 2015. Accessed 29 June 2017. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212267214016335.
- Blueberries are cancer fighters. Research has shown that blueberries may shrink blood vessel tumors in babies, as well as inhibit melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovaries, head and neck, bladder, and liver.
So, you’ve got plenty of reasons to want to go blueberry picking. When you get to the farm, here are a few tips for a successful day of picking:
Go Organic if Possible
Local fruit is fresher and better in general than fruit that was picked a week ago and shipped to your supermarket. But organic blueberries have additional advantages of actually containing higher concentrations of certain antioxidants. So if there’s an organic farm in your area that allows you to pick your own, make that your first choice.
Selecting Your Berries
Try to pick blueberries that are firm rather than starting to feel soft. Look for more uniform coloring and a very blue hue. If you find a few bushes with bountiful ripe berries, pick them clean! Being methodical, by reaching into the center and back areas of the bush, can get you a great crop of blueberries to bring home. And use a gentle touch as you pull them off or you’ll risk damaging the goods.
Plan Your Day Well
A little pre-planning usually makes for a more successful outing. In this case, we recommend calling the farm you intend to visit a few days beforehand to make sure the crop is ready for picking. It also means arming yourself and your loved ones with sunscreen and hats before leaving the house so no one ends up with sunburn after a day outdoors. Finally, it’s a good idea to bring some type of container in which to transport your blueberries home. Some farms will provide you with a box to keep, but others let you borrow a bucket for picking and expect you to have a carton into which to transfer your berries.
Oh, and by the way, when you’re out harvesting blueberries, you might want to bring home some of the leaves too. Blueberry leaves contain significant pharmaceutical amounts of both chlorogenic and caffeic acids (20%), along with a whole range of powerful antioxidants. There’s a reason Jon Barron uses powdered blueberry leaf in his long-chain-carb, sustained energy shake.
|↑1||Krikorian, Robert; et al. “Blueberry Supplementation Improves Memory in Older Adults.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 14 April 2010. Accessed 28 June 2017. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2850944/.|
|↑2||Muraki, Isao; et al. “Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies.” BMJ. 29 August 2013. Accessed 28 June 2017. http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f5001.|
|↑3||Johnson, Sarah A.; et al. “Daily Blueberry Consumption Improves Blood Pressure and Arterial Stiffness in Postmenopausal Women with Pre- and Stage 1-Hypertension: A Randomized, Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 8 January 2015. Accessed 29 June 2017. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212267214016335.|