If the following facts seem familiar, you may already be a blueberry fan.
According to recent research, blueberry consumption may contribute to enhanced memory capabilities. A long-term study published in the "Annals of Neurology" in 2012 found participants who ate the most blueberries were able to stave off memory decline by as much as 2.5 years. Another study showed subjects who drank blueberry juice every day for three months performed better on memory tests. Scientists credit the phenomenon to flavonoids, a pigment-producing compound.
So if you don't want to forget seven critical facts about the popular fruit, have a glass of blueberry juice and read on.
1. Blueberries are native to Europe and Asia, but North America is home to more indigenous blueberry species than any other continent. Native Americans made regular use of blueberries, which they called "star berries" after the pattern on the berry's blossom end. Sautauthig, a pudding made with blueberries, cracked corn and water, may have been served at the first Thanksgiving feast. The English settlers liked to doctor the dessert with milk, butter and sugar.
2. The painstaking work of picking blueberries by hand was relieved by the 1883 invention of a blueberry rake, a teethed metal contraption that resembles a dustbin. Mainer Abijah Tabbutt made the first rake prototype by sawing a saltbox in two.
3. Time spent in the freezer can be slightly detrimental to blueberries' flavor and texture, but the process doesn't rob the berries of the delicate antioxidants responsible for improving cardiovascular function and protecting retinas. The antioxidants, vitamins and enzymes don't fare as well in heat, so nutritionists recommend adding uncooked berries to salads, cereals and yogurt.
4. Strawberries are still the national berry king, but blueberries are making a serious run at their crown. Per capita consumption doubled between 1997 and 2007. In 2011, Americans ate 853 million pounds of blueberries, or 104 million more pounds than they ate the previous year.
5. When shopping for blueberries, seek out plump, firm berries with smooth skins and a silvery sheen. If the berries are packaged in a container, make sure the container isn't stained with juice (which indicates bruising) and the berries aren't infected with mold.
6. Michigan, Maine and Washington used to enjoy a near monopoly on blueberries, but newer varieties thrive in warmer, drier climates. Georgia, which boasts the nation's longest harvest, has become a leading blueberry producer.
7. The first cultivated blueberry was developed in 1916 by Elizabeth Coleman White, the daughter of Quaker cranberry growers. White also pioneered the practice of wrapping blueberries in cellophane instead of paper, a marketing scheme inspired by European chocolate.