• Sweet, Blue And Good For You

    Why blueberries? Why here?
    Florida’s Adventure Coast is the sweet spot for growing the beloved blueberry. Thanks to our cold-but-short winter and some agricultural ingenuity, blueberries ripen and reach the national market from Florida earlier each year than those grown elsewhere. Custom bred Florida blueberries are fresh, juicy and first to your spring shopping basket.

    Building a better blueberry
    Although wild blueberries were used by Native Americans for food, cough medicine, fabric dyes and more, Florida’s modern blueberry industry can mainly be attributed to University of Florida (UF) research.

    Sixty years ago, Professor Ralph Sharpe began a low-chill breeding program at UF. Successfully contending with native soil acidity, temperature and drainage matters, he and Professor Sherman released the first southern highbush cultivars in 1976. It is estimated that 98 percent of the southern highbush blueberries grown in Florida are from cultivars developed at UF.

    Decades of selective breeding diligence among faculty and students of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has yielded increasingly tasty and bountiful varieties. Blueberry growers are rapidly increasing in Florida, ready to meet heightened consumer demand. Florida blueberries, initiated by University of Florida research, supported a 25 million pound harvest and $75 million yearly industry that may not have otherwise existed.

    Blue Health Dynamo

    Small but mighty describes the sweet hero of this story. Add a single cup serving of blueberries to your day not just for taste but also to:
    • Keep your heart healthy and your cholesterol in check
    • Meet your daily fiber requirement
    • Get almost 25% of your daily Vitamin C requirement, aiding in the formation of collagen and helping to maintain healthy gums and capillaries
    • Promote iron absorption and a healthy immune system
    • Gain an excellent source of manganese, which plays an important role in bone development and converting carbohydrates into energy
    • Help regulate blood sugar due to its low glycemic index
    • Improve nighttime vision and reduce the risk of infection

    In addition to these health benefits, studies show that blueberries contain a category of phytonutrients called polyphenols. This group includes anthocyanins which give blueberries their blue color. Research suggests that polyphenols have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can play an important role in helping to lessen the inflammatory process associated with chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, cancer and age-related cognitive decline.

    Scientists continue to report on the many benefits of blueberries. Health-related research is conducted on topics of aging, antioxidant activity, metabolism, bone health, brain function, cancer, diabetes, gut health, liver and more. Access research studies from the Florida Blueberry Grower’s Association.

    Eat Sweet
    Just a handful, rinsed and popped directly into your mouth or sprinkled in your yogurt or cereal is fine, but there are more – many more – tasty ways to blend blueberries into your diet.
    From drinks like blueberry Daquiris and smoothies, to pancake and muffin breakfasts, salads, dressings and breads at lunch, creative appetizers, dinner entrees and dazzling desserts, find recipes on the Florida Blueberry Grower’s Association website and share your own on their facebook page.

    Shake Shake Shake – Shake for blueberries
    How can you get in on this fresh Florida blueberry scene? It’s easy! During April and May, visit one of the nine Adventure Coast farms open for U-Picking. Wear comfy, closed-toe shoes and grab some bags or buckets to take with you for some time in the fields. Walk among rows of bushes and shake one while holding your container beneath. The ripe berries will plop right in. Farms will generally have some already fresh-picked and available for you too, if you prefer. Don’t forget to call ahead; the phone numbers and locations are all available on this U-Pick and Farm Tours map.

    The Brooksville Blueberry Festival is held the last weekend in April
    The celebration of all things blueberry officially premieres with the annual Brooksville Blueberry Festival in April.

    Transforming historic downtown Brooksville, the festival features music performers, street entertainers, fine arts vendors and family-friendly attractions. The Fresh from Florida Market showcases Florida-grown blueberries and throughout the event, blueberries will be available to taste in many delectable forms – from pies to pastries to salads, even to blueberry wines. You can even buy a small blueberry bush to plant at home. Don’t miss the fun and chance to get the blues right here in Florida’s blueberry sweet spot.

     

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