The Blueberry Patch

I read today that Canadian’s eat a lot of bananas. Interesting, since we actually grow a whoppingly huge number of blueberries. Weird, because most of those blueberries get exported. Canadian’s eat about 13kg of bananas per year per person. Now I have nothing against bananas, in fact I love them. They are loaded with potassium and they stand in for breakfast anytime that I am in a hurry. They even have fibre (and we can all use a little more of that!). But in contrast to the way that the average Canadian eats about 13kg of bananas every year, we only eat about one half of a kilogram of blueberries. There are about a million people in Nova Scotia, and so that would mean that we should be eating 500,000 kg of blueberries, and yet it does not seem to be the case.
Blueberries, like many other berries, are like a super vitamin. They are packed with phytochemicals (the same thing that makes cranberries a urinary tract infection fighter). When we look at aging and the fight to maintain our cognitive prowess as well as memory, blueberries are a winner. In lab studies, Dr. James Joseph from Tufts University at Boston and his colleagues founds that rats who were fed an extract of blueberries, strawberries and spinach showed improvements in short-term memory. The blueberry extract was the only one that also improved balance and coordination.
In another study, rats fed the equivalent of half a cup of blueberries a day for two months actually reversed age related decline in motor skills. They are still working to establish exactly which compounds are responsible for the effects, but the proof is not disputed; blueberries have incredible health benefits.

Now, bananas are also incredibly good for you. The thing is that to get a banana to Nova Scotia it travels a lot of miles, usually from Costa Rica or Brazil, coated in a commanding amount of pesticide and burning barrels of fossil fuels to transport it at the right temperature so that it remains unspoiled before it gets purchased.

Blueberries grow right here in my home province of Nova Scotia, before 85% of them are shipped off to other places. Buy them here at home and very little transportation is required, and if you include a trip to a local farmer’s market or U-Pick, all kinds of local treasures are available to you. Growing blueberries is a long term commitment. It takes about three years before they produce fruit and up to six years before they are fully productive.

I like the Italian system, personally. I have some Italian in me, and I think it is partly responsible for my love of tomatoes, but that is a different post. It is reported that the Italians keep their best products in Italy. I do not have the translation ability to know if this is actually true or not, but I think it makes a lot of sense. Keep the best foods, the most outstanding products, close by the people who will most benefit from it; the local grower’s and their community. What better way could there be to advertise the benefits and quality of what is nearby but to share it with your neighbours and have all of them advertising for and with you?

There is an increased awareness and some demand for local produce, but in order to make it most effective we actually need to be much more demanding. As a community, we have to learn to enjoy local food when it is in season, to do what our grandmother’s did and freeze, preserve and can fresh food. Pulling out a jar of your own jam is a delight, and you will know every ingredient that went into the jar. Enjoying those delights during the off season is fabulous.

In the bigger picture, buying local produce and supporting our local farmers means that we are also supporting the local economy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and leaving a smaller carbon footprint. That’s a recipe I can definitely get into.


Lynda said...

I'm all for blueberry eatin'! They taste a lot better than bananas! Banana's get boring pretty quick! Blueberry's on the other hand vary in shape, and somewhat in taste, and they pop in your mouth too!

Zada Connaway said...

It always comes around to food, and now I see why! Informative post, Pam. I love blueberries, even in muffins and pancakes!

Zada Connaway, Author
Mother’s Journals: Parts 1, 2 and 3
ISBN # 1-4241-6969-0

Pam said...

Me too Zada - in fact I made berry smoothies for lunch today that were loaded. Hope you have had a super weekend!