As the 4th of July approaches, let’s take a look at one of the few truly American fruits–the humble blueberry! Blueberries greeted the first explorers who landed in what was to become America. Today, the blueberry is still one of our favorites.
The velvety, blue-black gems we call blueberries are the key to delicious, healthy summer dishes, yes, but they’re also about as patriotic as a fruit can get.
Aside from the fact that they fit right in with any red, white and blue color scheme, they’re one of the only fruits that are native to North America.
And, just like America herself, the American blueberry is one of a kind.
Cousins of the American blueberry can be found all over the world–in South America, Asia, and even Europe–but our blueberry did not migrate with explorers. Nor did it escape from a colonial garden. The blueberry was already thriving in America thousands of years before Samuel de Champlain stumbled into the Huron harvesting wild blueberries in 1615.
I can’t help imagine, as the first sapphire globe burst on Champlain’s tongue, did he compare the blueberry to the promise of the New World sky?
As Native Americans would soon teach all newcomers, the blueberry was a staple of the original American diet. Native Americans used all parts of the blueberry–from bush to stem to berry to leaves.
Berries were crushed and pounded into smoked meat, or used to create a pudding called “sautauthig,” which consisted of crushed berries, honey, cornmeal and water.
The blueberry bush roots were used to make a tea that was an aid during childbirth or to treat coughs. The leaves were used to make a tonic for the blood. And even the blueberry blossom, with it’s beautiful 5-pointed star shape, was believed to represent the “Great Spirit,” who sent the plant to relieve the hunger of children during times of famine.
The first settlers would have compared blueberries to other known fruits like the Scottish blaeberry, or the English whortleberry–even the Germany blaubarren. So from the beginning, the blueberry was incorporated into all types of new world cooking. No wonder it’s so popular.
So are blueberries the most patriotic fruit? I think they are. Blueberries are an American original.