Despite being quite tiny, blueberries are a true health bomb, are tasty, refreshing, juicy, and we all love them for it. They are one of nature’s healthiest berries as they are rich in antioxidants, strengthen the immune system and prevent cancer and heart diseases.
Blueberries are also packed with proanthocyanidin, which promotes healthy weight loss, deter cancer and contributes for a healthier and younger-looking skin. They are also a wonderful source of vitamins A, C, and K, potassium, and manganese.
So, there really are not that many reasons for you not to try and grow blueberries and eat them right off the shrub, add them to yogurt, or enrich your desserts.
Below are 10 health benefits of consuming blueberries.
1. Blueberries are low in calories and packed with nutrients
Blueberries is rich in fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
2. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants
This tasty berry has the highest density of antioxidants of all popular vegetables and fruits. Flavonoids are the berries’ most potent antioxidant.
3. Blueberries reduce DNA damage, which may slow down aging and prevent cancer
According to several researches, blueberries and blueberry juice reduce DNA damage – a key factor that causes ageing and potentially even cancer.
4. Blueberries regulate blood cholesterol and protect it from becoming damaged
The antioxidants blueberries are rich in have shown to lower the risk for heart diseases by preventing oxidative damage to “bad” LDL cholesterol.
5. They regulate high blood pressure
According to some studies, frequent blueberry consumption has been linked to reducing high blood pressure.
6. Blueberries can deter heart diseases
Blueberries are packed with anthocyanins (a type of flavonoid with antioxidant properties) which are thought to reduce the risk of heart diseases.
7. Blueberries improve your cognitive function and memory
The abovementioned antioxidants that blueberries are rich in improve your brain function and deters mental illnesses.
8. Blueberries contain anthocyanins which are believed to have anti-diabetes properties
According to some research, blueberries are thought to regulate your sensitivity to insulin, lower blood sugar levels, and help combat diabetes.
9. Blueberries help combat urinary tract infections
Similar to cranberries, blueberries are packed with components that ward off bacteria that bind to the wall of your bladder, therefore likely preventing UTIs.
10. Blueberries relax the muscles after strenuous exercise
According to one study, blueberries have shown to loosen the muscles and help them recuperate quicker following an intense physical activity.
When to consider planting
The best time to plant your blueberries would be late winter or early spring as the blueberry will need to grow roots before the arrival of the scorching season.
Before planting, add to the soil a bucket of pine needles, peat moss, or composted leaves to help maintain acidity. Each plant ought to be planted a bit deeper than it was in its initial pot.
Immediately after you plant it, spread a layer of about three inches of organic mulch over the ground to prevent the growth of weeds and keep the roots moist. For organic mulch you can use well-aged sawdust, pine needles, wood chips, or shredded leaves.
Now for the watering. The plants will require about two inches of water every week to keep the soil moist but not oversaturated. If you are growing your berries in a container, water them till it starts to leak from the bottom of the pot.
Make sure you water your blueberries during droughts. The blueberry has extensive surface roots so make sure it’s thoroughly soaked to 6 inches deep.
Pruning and growing
Pick off the flowers on your blueberry shrub to enable it to concentrate all of its energy on getting a strong start. Also remember to replace your mulch as often as you can to maintain a 2-inch-deep layer. Once the shrubs are strong enough you can fertilize them each spring with some organic fertilizer.
In the first three years the shrubs won’t require any pruning. Just remember to remove the fruit buds during the first two years to allow the shrub to grow. After that, trim it in late winter each year to remove old twigs and prompt it to grow fresh new branches.
You must have a proper trimming technique for your blueberry shrub after it’s reached its fourth birthday to keep optimum production.
Shrubs which are about six years or older won’t be as productive. Remember to cut the oldest stems to their base during late winter.
When it comes to picking the fruits of your labor (literally and figuratively), blueberries are harvested anytime from late May to mid-August. The fruit will be ready for harvesting several days after it turns entirely blue. Allow your berries to ripen on the shrub because they will stop ripening once picked.
If you want to grow the tastiest blueberries possible, tickle the branches and the ripe ones will fall right in your hand while those still maturing will remain on their branches. Do this twice a week while they are still ripe.
Blueberries are really simple to harvest and easy to prepare as they do not require to be cut, cored, or peeled. You can freeze, can, or dry them for future use, or use them straight away to make a delicious pie, snacks, cobbler, and as topping, or use your frozen blueberries for a smoothie.
No matter what you combine them with they will be tasty, energizing, and, most importantly, highly nutritious and healthy.
Preventing diseases, pests, and other issues
Blueberries have very few serious pest or disease problems. Birds remain the biggest threat to your shrubs, but you can use a net to protect the blueberries and keep the birds at bay.
Use bird netting for protection of the bushes once the berries start to ripen. If you have a garden, you might want to use a bird deterrent which transmits a bird in distress call and helps keep the birds away.
However, there are some insects and diseases to be wary of. There are a number of fungal diseases that can damage the blueberries like leaf spot and powdery mildew diseases, and the best way to prevent them is to plant more resilient varieties.
Also make sure that the bushes get ample of sunlight, have space and proper air circulation. Also, clean up debris under the bushes and remember to replace mulch every year to that spores don’t overwinter in the area.
Pests you should take into account include plum curculio, cherry fruit worm, cranberry fruit worm, and blueberry tip bore. Always ask for advice what deterrents to use to avoid harming your plants.
Also avoid chemicals for the sake of your plants, your family and your environment. Always look for natural alternatives to keep insects away from your blueberries.
Lastly, keep an eye out for chlorosis, also known as yellowing leaves. It isn’t unusual for blueberry leaves to start becoming yellow, a common sign that they lack iron, though in most cases it is not a case of lack of iron in the soil.
This could be a telltale sign that the pH in the plant’s soil is too high, which basically means they don’t receive the needed intake of iron in the soil. If you notice yellow leaves on your shrubs, it is time to check your soil and make some changes.