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Monday, September 27, 2010

Ahhhh, Blueberries! And don't neglect the Amazing Aronia....

My favorite bush fruit as far as taste is concerned is the Blueberry.  Burnt Ridge Nursery has a good selection.  I have quite a few that bloom in succession to keep me in blueberries from mid June until nearly frost.  Some early blueberries I like include Misty (evergreen), and one I have down as Jersey which is usually considered late.   Some midseason blueberries I like are Blueray, Sunshine Blue (evergreen) which goes on into the late season, and Berkeley and Herbert, which are both tall with lots of big berries.  Legacy (evergreen) is tall and mid-late.  The evergreen bushes have fruit with a slightly different and perhaps even more delicious taste. 

Brunswick Lowbush Blueberries make a nice groundcover on a slope and have small berries over a long period of time.

Evergreen blueberries are among my favorites.  They don't lose their leaves in the winter but they do have lovely red and orange fall color- the branches are going sideways...

Sunshine Blue, one of my favorites, can get insanely loaded with berries-

I also really like Aronia melanocarpa 'Viking'; if you look up the ORAC (Oxygen Reactive Absorbance Capacity) value of Aronia, it is amazing.

It is higher than the value for Acai, a berry that sells for high prices, but you could grow Aronia in your back yard and enjoy even higher health benefits.  The variety Nero is similar to Viking but smaller, and there is a dwarf form that is smaller still.  Of all the berries I grow, Aronia are the easiest and most productive to harvest.  My two bushes are loaded every year, and the berries are formed in clusters hanging from one stem, all berries in the cluster and on the entire bush ripening at once, unlike blueberries which must be harvested so carefully since the green berries can break off with the ripe ones, so harvesting is as simple as snapping off the clusters into a bag, then I can sit around indoors and pull the berries off the stems and put 
them into freezer bags at leisure.

I get enough to have them last all year and beyond.  My son convinced me to overlook the slight puckery quality of the skins and seeds, and eat them raw with yogurt or Stevia-sweetened whipping cream, so now I put them raw on our fruit salad with yogurt and have come to enjoy the raw taste and save myself the work of cooking and straining to make Stevia-sweetened gelatin out of them, which is how I used to eat them.

The American diet is lacking in antioxidants, being well below the recommended 5000 units a day, but the Aronia berries can help greatly in reaching that amount, as well as adding spices such as Cinnamon, Cloves, and Ginger to your daily diet and using raw or dried herbs such as Basil, Oregano, and Rosemary in salads and cooked foods.  All of these are fantastically high in antioxidants.  Normal wear and tear from exercise, stress, pollutants, pesticides, and poor diet can increase the reactive free radicals in the body, which do oxidative damage to cells and cause inflammation and disease, wrinkles and ageing, and are implicated in heart disease, DNA damage, diabetes, and cancer.  Antioxidants can reduce the amounts of free radicals in the body and protect the heart, joints, and cell membranes from damage.  So, before you spend your hard-earned money on some Acai or other expensive imported fruit, consider growing the native and underappreciated Aronia berry.


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