Blueberries enjoy worldwide popularity thanks to their sweetness and antioxidant-rich nutrition profile. But the bounty of nature alone is not enough to keep pace with the heavy demand for this tasty, healthy fruit. Success depends on the introduction of new cultivars to meet the changing.
Michigan has been the No. 1 state for blueberries for the last 70 years, and that success is partly due to the varieties developed by James Hancock.an AgBioResearch scientist at Michigan State University. Hancock developed three of the world’s most widely planted Northern Highbush blueberry varieties: Aurora, Draper and Liberty, along with several other successful cultivars throughout his three decades at MSU. Varieties from Michigan State University are well-known across the world for their fruit quality and yield aspects.
A blueberry plant must meet a long list of qualifications to be deemed exceptional by Hancock, including flavor, color, firmness and size. The plant shape is also important to meet harvest techniques, whether mechanical or handpicked. Only about 1 percent of plants make it past the first round of evaluation. Once selected, the exceptional plants are sent to growers worldwide for additional evaluation—typically four to six years—before release to the industry for production. The perfect blueberry is high yielding and has a superior taste and aroma.
- There are approximately 30 blueberry species.
- Michigan leads the nation in highbush production.
- MSU AgBioResearch’s Jim Hancock developed four blueberry varieties: Draper, Liberty, Aurora and Huron.
- Draper and Liberty are the most widely planted Northern highbush blueberry varieties in the world.
- Blueberries are one of the only fruits native to North America but are found on almost every continent.
- One of few naturally blue foods, blueberries don’t start out that way. They first appear white, turn red and finally blue, making them the “all-American” berry.
Blueberries contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that provide notable health benefits. For example, blueberries are rich in vitamin K, which plays an important role in promoting heart health. The vitamin is also important to bone health and blood clotting. Blueberries are one of the best natural sources of antioxidants. While antioxidants aren’t necessary for your body to function, they help protect your body from damage by free radicals.
Eating blueberries regularly can help reduce high blood pressure in people with metabolic syndrome and protect cardiovascular health. The current hypothesis is that blueberries help the body produce more nitric oxide, which reduces blood pressure inside blood vessels and helps with smooth muscle relaxation.
Blueberries can help people with diabetes better manage their blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that eating blueberries regularly can help improve insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. Blueberries can also help reduce fasting blood sugar levels by nearly a third in people with type 2 diabetes, helping them to manage their blood sugar levels more effectively.
Add some to your daily diet. A serving of a half a cup has only 42 calories and they contain dietary fiber, which helps your digestive system run smoothly. And they taste great!