On Eating and Loving Food

Blueberries for your health, in cereal and manhattans

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 10:00am

After returning from a long road trip with my brother, Peter, and indulging in a lot of tasty, high fat, low health level foods, I got up this morning feeling a strong desire for a good healthy breakfast.

I had already started craving my favorite weekday breakfast during the homestretch: Shredded wheat (the old-fashioned big biscuits), frozen Wyman blueberries, and milk. I’ve gone from skim milk, to low fat, to full fat content milk over the last year, after Wendy told me whole milk is better, and oddly, less fattening, than skim. I don’t get it and am not sure I believe it, but man – it’s so good on cereal.

So I got the frozen Wymans out of the freezer and poured the usual amount into a bowl. Then I dumped more in, in full-tilt health recovery mode. We all know blueberries are wicked healthful, right? I sprinkled a little sugar over them, broke up the shredded wheat biscuit, and added my new go-to milk: Low fat. The frozen blues make the milk icy-cold. I love that.

The “Today Show” was on, and as I sat down in front of it with my cereal and blues, a segment came on. It was about the health benefits of blueberries, specifically wild ones, and much of it focused on Maine’s frozen Wyman’s blueberries. I’m not making this up. This serendipity stuff is starting to freak me out. It’s been happening a lot lately.

After the segment ended I googled it, then found an email address for the blueberry expert who was featured on it. Mary Ann Lila, Ph.D., the director of the Plants for Human Health Institute at North Carolina State University, answered my email quickly, even though it was Easter.

I asked her for some comments about blueberries, and followed that with, “P.S. Where is the Easter bunny and why are we working?” She said her husband was home grilling lamb, and she was heading there soon. Lucky her (though as anyone who knows me knows I can’t eat lamb).

She responded with some great information about our wild Maine blues. In part she said: “Throughout history, until relatively recent times, everyone depended on a hunter-gatherer lifestyle characterized by physical exertion and collection of lean protein and wild produce (including wild blueberries) that were chock-a-block full of phytoactive (health-protective, bioactive) compounds that not only helped the plant to survive in the wild, but, consequently helped anyone eating that plant to ward off chronic diseases.”

Whew! I had to read that twice, but I was brain-dead after my long road trip.

She said now we have “very few wild edible plants that are still available to us (without scouting out in the woods for ourselves) – wild mushrooms and wild rice, wild-caught salmon and trout, and of course wild blueberries, which still grown prolifically and in the same nutrient and phytoactive-dense status that they have for thousands of years, without change.”

That brought me back to my particular love of wild Maine blueberries that started when I was a kid in Cushing, picking (some will say pilfering) the blues from the huge blueberry field. It was reached by a narrow path through woods that opened up to the field overlooking the St. George River.

Still does, and I will no doubt be pilfering blues this coming summer. Maybe not. One more for the memoirs.

The field actually belongs to old friends my family has known for, like, 100 years. My mother picked blueberries there when she was a kid, and I have, pretty much every other summer, my whole life. A breathtakingly gorgeous spot, and rife with blueberries every other summer.

Blueberries wild and cultivated grow all over the world, but Maine is the largest producer, according to umaine.edu

And there must be, like, 300 million berries there at peak season, so it’s not like the two or three thousand I pick are going to have any negative impact.

And according to Lila, blueberries can have a huge positive impact on our health.

"When you break open a wild blueberry … you'll get stains on your fingers. Those stains are pigments which are the health-protective compounds which help with ... cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes ... memory, and many forms of cancer.” They also contain essential nutrients, like vitamins C and K and manganese, and they’re rich in antioxidants.

I shared a recipe for my mother’s blueberry banana muffins a while back. They’re quick and easy, and they’re the Best. Muffins. Ever. I’ve just about hit my word limit, so if you want the recipe send me an email: suzithayer@boothbayregister.com

And after all the times I’ve told you how good a bowl of cereal (shredded wheat, Cheerios, Raisin Bran, whatever, with a handful of frozen blues thrown in the bottom of the bowl, making the milk ice cold) is, for God’s sake, just try it.

Oh, and I went to make a manhattan last night and discovered I had no ice. So guess what I used. That’s right: Frozen blues. Talk about a no-brainer. The frozen blues keep the manhattan cold and after the last swig you can scarf the whiskey-soaked berries with a spoon. Hello.

Luckily I’m rarely without a bag of Wyman’s in my freezer. Or a bottle of whiskey (or bourbon) in my (not) pantry :-).

See ya next week.