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Plenty of blueberries for healthy living

Freshly harvested blueberries - one of the joys of summer - are on the way and this year’s crop is looking bigger and better than ever. In fact, Oregon growers are expected to harvest more than 80 million pounds of blueberries this year, another production record. A bumper crop of fresh blueberries is good news for customers who have increasingly become aware of the advantages of buying local and buying fresh. While people tend to think of blueberries as simply a tasty summer treat, blueberries have been named the star of “Super Foods” for a healthy mind and body. It’s the Super Food designation that has driven blueberry production and sales increases in recent years. With such large production numbers, Oregon remains one of the top producing states in the nation. Fresh blueberries are a hot commodity these days for a lot of reasons with incredible taste, the highest quality and high nutritional value being just a few. Growers routinely realize the highest crop yields per acre compared to any other state, an estimated 10,000 pounds per acre in Oregon. Blueberry farms range from large operations that ship to both national and international buyers to small family farms with less than ten acres offering on-farm sales. Last year, Oregon growers produced 89.2 million pounds of blueberries, of which 37.2 million pounds were grown for the fresh market. Popular blueberry varieties include Berkeley, Bluetta, Bluejay, Bluecrop, Duke, Earliblue, Elliott, Jersey, Liberty, Powder Blue and Rubel. Blueberries Taste Great and Good for the Body: While blueberries may have advantages when it comes to taste and quality, it’s the international interest in nutrition and healthy eating that have fueled the growth. In general, blueberries are a very rich source of antioxidant phytonutrients. Antioxidants refer to the negative oxidation properties or compounds found in blueberries. Certain natural fruits and vegetables supply the body with chemicals which react against particularly harmful oxidants associated with elements (“free radicals”) which can damage a wide variety of functions and internal processes. Five-a-Day The Color Way: Just one-half cup of blueberries helps individuals meet the USDA’s recommended goal of five to nine servings a day of fruits and vegetables. The Five-a-Day The Color Way program suggests that to achieve optimal health benefits, people should choose colorful fruits and vegetables daily from each of the five color groups. Blueberries are a proud member of the blue/purple group. When it comes to taste and nutrition, blueberries are the true blue. Their sweet, fruity flavor has been enjoyed for years and now thanks to research going on in labs across the U.S. and Canada, there’s big news about the blues. These tasty little berries are, in fact, powerful disease fighters. Research shows that blueberries contain natural compounds that help a body stay healthy and may help prevent age-related diseases, including Alzheimer’s, macular degeneration and some forms of cancer. With only 40 fat-free calories per half cup, blueberries are also a great source of fiber and vitamin C. A serving of blueberries is a quick way to help meet the USDA’s recommendation of colorful fruits every day.

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Photo by Photo courtesy of Oregon Blueberries

More than 37 million pounds of blueberries grown in Oregon were sent to fresh market in 2013.

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Photo by Photo courtesy of Oregon Blueberries

Blueberry harvest in Oregon takes place from July to September, giving people the option of enjoying the “Super Food.”

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All-American Chicken Blueberry Salad Platter. Ingredients: 1⁄3 cup bottled vinaigrette dressing, 1 tablespoon orange marmalade, 1 tablespoon reduced fat mayonnaise, 2 cups ½-inch cubes cooked chicken breast, 2 cups blueberries, ½ cup ½-inch cubes red bell pepper, 2 small scallions, sliced (about 3 tablespoons), Salt and ground black pepper, 4 large slices whole grain country bread, 4 slices (¾-inch thick) iceberg lettuce (cut crosswise through center of head), 8 to 12 thin crosswise slices tomato. In a large bowl, combine vinaigrette, marmalade and mayonnaise. Set aside 2 tablespoons of mixture. Stir chicken, blueberries, red pepper and scallions into remaining dressing ...

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Blueberry-Watermelon Frosty. Ingredients: 1 container (6 ounces) frozen lemonade or limeade concentrate, unthawed, 2 cups fresh blueberries, 2 cups watermelon cubes, seeds removed, 1 cup ice cubes. In a blender container, combine lemonade concentrate, blueberries and watermelon. Purée until very smooth. Add ice cubes; blend until mixture is slushy. Add sugar, if needed. YIELD: 4 portions (about 5 cups)

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Fresh Blueberry Napoleons. Ingredients: 6 slices firm white sandwich bread, crusts removed, 1 teaspoon butter, softened, ¼ teaspoon sugar, 1 cup ricotta cheese (whole or part-skim milk or cottage cheese), ¼ cup mascarpone or cream cheese, ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons apricot preserves, 1 cup blueberries. Preheat oven to 350°F. With a rolling pin, roll bread slices very thin. Cut each slice in half lengthwise. Lightly butter bread on one side. Arrange on baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake until crisp and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature (If making ahead, wrap tightly store at ...

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Ham Sandwich with Berry Blueberry Chutney. Ingredients: 4 cups frozen or fresh blueberries 1 can (16 ounces) whole berry cranberry sauce, ¼ cup sugar, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1-½ teaspoons grated orange peel, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, ¼ to ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper. In a medium non-reactive saucepan combine blueberries, cranberry sauce, sugar, balsamic vinegar, orange peel, ginger and red and black peppers. Bring to a boil. Boil uncovered, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, 15 to 20 minutes. Pour into clean jars. Cover and refrigerate up to three weeks, or place in canning jars ...

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