July is National Blueberry Month! Celebrate this exciting month with a handful of delicious Georgia blueberries. If any fruit deserved its own month for celebrating it is these "little blues". The blueberry is Georgia’s number one fruit crop and has a high economic and nutritional value for our state. Blueberries have multiple health benefits and can prevent diseases and increase our overall health. If you live in one of the other states that produces blueberries, then eat those too!
The blueberry may be small, but it’s no youngster. Botanists estimate blueberries burst onto the scene more than 13,000 years ago!
Blueberries are indigenous to North America and have deep roots in our country’s history. In fact, blueberries, cranberries, and concord grapes are the only fruits native to America. When Europeans arrived on the continent, the Native Americans were already enjoying blueberries year-round. They dried blueberries in the sun and added them whole to soups, stews and meat, or crushed them into a powder rubbed into meat as a preservative. They were also used as medicine and even today is better than cranberry juice for urinary infections. According to legend, Native Americans gave blueberries to the pilgrims to help them make it through their first winter.
The Native Americans were just as energized by blueberries as people are today, and developed folklore around the dynamic little blue fruit. Tribal elders recounted how the Great Spirit sent “star berries” to ease the children’s hunger during a famine. They called blueberries “star berries” because the blossom end of each berry – the calyx – forms a perfect five-pointed star. Native Americans were the first to encourage blueberry growth by burning over the fields on a regular basis.
Blueberries originated in the northeastern United States and Canada. Now they grow in 6 of the 7 continents of the world.
Today, the Wrangler Jeans Company uses wild blueberry juice to dye denim clothing.
Robert Frost, a famous Georgia poet, liked blueberries so much he wrote a poem about them.
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