Power Plants: Blueberry

via Bryce Wylde

Biohacks, Remedies

Power Plants

BLUEBERRY (Vaccinium spp.)
Blueberry is a shrub in the heather family (Ericaceae), which also includes cranberries, azaleas and rhododendrons. Blueberries grow all over the world, but they are native to North America. Native people dried them in the sun and stored them for use year-round.
Blueberries are big business in North America, with major growing regions in Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and British Columbia.
The health benefits of blueberries come from a class of antioxidants called anthocyanins: these are the deep blue-purple pigments the plant produces to attract birds and insects. The anthocyanins are thought to pass through the blood-brain barrier to improve the health of the brain—memory in particular.
The antioxidant benefit from blueberries seems to be DNA-dependent. Recent research has shown the effectiveness of these berries is much greater with some people than others with respect to how they might protect the heart and brain.
Blueberries have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, and they have the potential to lower blood sugar levels.
Difficulty: Easy to medium
Hardiness: Perennial in zones 3 to 4 or above, depending on variety
Time to Plant: Early spring, as soon as soil is workable
Time to Harvest: Mid to late summer
Location: Full sun
Soil Type: Moist and slightly acidic (see below)
Blueberries can be grown anywhere from pots to formal gardens; they’re typically used as hedges or grown in clusters. They offer three seasons of interest in the garden: in early spring, the shrubs produce delicate white or pink flowers. In summer the fruit has an attractive sky-blue colour, and in fall the foliage adds explosions of red and yellow to end the garden season.
Common Varieties: There are three basic classifications: highbush, lowbush, and hybrid half-high. Highbush varieties (Blue Crop, Blue Ray, Jersey, Pioneer) are the most common and are typically hardy to zone 4. Lowbush varieties are best for colder climates (up to zone 3). Hybrid-half high varieties (Northcountry, Northland, Northblue) combine properties from the other two.
Plant blueberries in early spring, or as soon as your soil is frost-free and workable. Locate them in full sun, and space them 1 to 2 m apart (4 to 6 feet). Plant more than one to ensure ample pollination.
It’s difficult to find the ideal soil for blueberries. This plant likes soil that is both well-drained and acidic. Unfortunately, clay soils are naturally acidic but poorly drained, while sandy soils are well-drained but lack acidity. You can amend clay soils with a peat/sand mixture, or amend sandy soils with peat to improve absorption and acidity. But in most cases you’ll need to apply sulphur to lower the pH.
The pH level in the soil affects a plant’s ability to absorb nutrients and minerals. The lower the number, the higher the acidity. Most plants like soils with neutral pH (6.0 to 7.0). But some, including clematis, enjoy alkaline soils (pH 7.1 -8.0), while many fruiting plants enjoy acidic soil. Blueberries are in that latter category: it’s essential to grow them in soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.2. Before planting, pick up a soil tester at your garden centre.
Blueberries require ample water to improve fruit size and yields. Water deeply, ensuring the water penetrates into the soil: as often as 3 times per week. Use a soaker hose to avoid watering the foliage. Mulch is also a big help: it not only helps maintain moisture, but mulch of pine or spruce needles will naturally improve soil acidity.
Prune any dead or weak stems early in spring. Prune to shape in fall or after harvest.
Blueberries are resistant to most diseases and insects, so they can easily be grown organically. The challenge will be battling the birds and bears for the fruit! Garden mesh or artificial owl statues will discourage birds and smaller rodents. Larger furry friends pose greater challenges: call your local Ministry of Natural Resources!
Yields in the first couple of seasons will be modest, but when the bushes mature they can produce up to 15 lb. of fruit annually. To see if the blueberries are ready to pick, place a bucket under the bush and gentling move the foliage around with your hand: ripe blueberries will fall into the bucket. Many varieties will produce berries continuously and can be picked every 5 to 10 days.
Do not wash blueberries until you need them. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, freeze or make into jams or spreads.
Need a breakfast makeover? Have a blueberry smoothie!
If you want to remain in good health, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. “Breaking your fast” is important for your brain and blood nutrient levels, and for increasing your energy. Smoothies have become a popular breakfast idea is because they are fast, simple, easy to digest, and super-healthy. Toss these ingredients in a blender to kick-start your morning:
1 cup                                  fresh or frozen blueberries
1                                           red pear
½                                           apple
1 cup                                  plain low-fat yogurt
1 tsp                                   vanilla whey, soy, or rice protein powder
Coping with stress? Don some antioxidant armour!
Stress is North America’s number-one silent killer, because it contributes to the development of free radicals. These aren’t right-wing political activists: they’re atoms with unpaired electrons that cause cell-damaging chemical reactions in the body, leading to heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Blueberries can help because they contain a wallop of antioxidants that protect the body’s cells.
You can give your body an antioxidant armour by drinking a shot of blueberry juice every morning. Toss a cup of blueberries to a blender and purée. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and store the juice in a sealable glass container in the refrigerator. Drink 1 oz every morning. (Don’t make more than 5 oz at a time.)
Diabetic? Snack on these!
Whether you’re looking to prevent type 2 diabetes (one of the most epidemic health problems of our time) or manage it better, your fruit of choice should be the blueberry. Eat them straight-up as a snack between meals—right off the bush and into a Tupperware they go. Use an ice pack if you’re on the road.
Research has found that higher consumption of anthocyanin-rich fruit like blueberries was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes (but not the juice: that’s too high in sugar).% If you are trying to better manage your blood sugar, consider eating ½ cup of blueberries with 10 almonds between meals.
As always, though, keep in mind your overall diet. There is a theoretical interaction in individuals with diabetes or using blood glucose-lowering agents. Blueberries have been found to lower blood glucose levels if consumed too frequently.
Fast forward to the health food store to purchase the Douglas Laboratories pTeroPure capsules or equivalent. Follow the instructions on the label.
Avoid if you have a known allergy or hypersensitivity to blueberries or other members of the Ericaceae family.
Use cautiously with certain lipid-lowering drugs such as fibrates, as research has indicated an ingredient in blueberries called pterostilbenecan can reduce cholesterol and other lipids.
Kay, C. D. and Holub, B. J. The effect of wild blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) consumption on postprandial serum antioxidant status in human subjects. Br.J.Nutr. 2002;88(4):389-398.
Prior, R. L., Gu, L., Wu, X., Jacob, R. A., Sotoudeh, G., Kader, A. A., and Cook, R. A. Plasma antioxidant capacity changes following a meal as a measure of the ability of a food to alter in vivo antioxidant status. J Am Coll Nutr 2007;26(2):170-181.
Melzig, M. F. and Funke, I. [Inhibitors of alpha-amylase from plants–a possibility to treat diabetes mellitus type II by phytotherapy?]. Wien.Med Wochenschr. 2007;157(13-14):320-324
Nemes-Nagy, E., Szocs-Molnar, T., Dunca, I., Balogh-Samarghitan, V., Hobai, S., Morar, R., Pusta, D. L., and Craciun, E. C. Effect of a dietary supplement containing blueberry and sea buckthorn concentrate on antioxidant capacity in type 1 diabetic children. Acta Physiol Hung. 2008;95(4):383-393.
# Abidov, M., Ramazanov, A., Jimenez Del, Rio M., and Chkhikvishvili, I. Effect of Blueberin on fasting glucose, C-reactive protein and plasma aminotransferases, in female volunteers with diabetes type 2: double-blind, placebo controlled clinical study. Georgian.Med News 2006;(141):66-72.
++ Wilms, L. C., Boots, A. W., de Boer, V. C., Maas, L. M., Pachen, D. M., Gottschalk, R. W., Ketelslegers, H. B., Godschalk, R. W., Haenen, G. R., van Schooten, F. J., and Kleinjans, J. C. Impact of multiple genetic polymorphisms on effects of a 4-week blueberry juice intervention on ex vivo induced lymphocytic DNA damage in human volunteers. Carcinogenesis 2007;28(8):1800-1806.
%Nicole M Wedick et al. Dietary flavonoid intakes and risk of type 2 diabetes in US men and women. American Journal Clinical Nutrition

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