Blueberries (Vaccinium L.)

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History

The geographical distribution of the Blueberries is very wide, but the major centers are South-East Asia and North America. All researchers point out that Vaccinium is an Arctic species (even in the Arctic there are extremely cold-hardy plants) that has undergone migration and differentiation throughout history. The southern and tropical species developed later, adapting to new conditions.

There are now 36 species of Blueberries in North America, divided into three groups: lowbush, highbush, and rabbitbrush. The dwarf group includes plants with berry bushes up to 1 m tall, the tall ones up to 3-5 m tall, and the three-eyed ones up to 9 m tall. There are 99 dwarf species in Asia and 29 in South and Central America. The narrow-leaved (Vaccinium angustifolium Ait.) of the dwarf group, the tall (V. corymbosum L.) and southern (V. formosum Andrews) of the tall group, and the rabbit-headed (V. virgatum Aiton.) of the trident group has been of the greatest economic value in the development of the cultivation of the Blueberries. These species have been cultivated in North America and have given rise to productive varieties of orchard rowan.

The cultivation and breeding of the grape were started in 1906 by Frederick Vernon Coville (1888-1937) and his colleagues. In the first four years, they studied the growth and development of the Blueberries from seed to ripe fruit. Later, the search for promising clones in natural habitats was launched. As early as 1908, the first varieties ‘Brooks’ and ‘Rassel’ were selected from several wild forms of the Blueberries, and in 1911 the new variety ‘Gruenfild’ was obtained by crossing.

Elizabeth White of New Jersey played an important role in the history of the cultivation of the grape, providing some land for seedlings in 1911 and assisting in the selection of the breeding material. By 1920, three hybrid varieties, ‘Pioneer’, ‘Cabot’, and ‘Katharine’, were already available for plantation cultivation.

It took F V Coville three decades to develop 15 varieties for planting. Since 1965, the blueberries have been studied at numerous breeding stations in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Michigan, West Virginia, Florida, Indiana, and other states.

Blueberries Vaccinium
Blueberries Vaccinium

Varieties

Since many varieties, especially the early ones, were based on the highbush (V. corymbosum L.), the new plants were usually referred to as such. It was only in 1993, at the Fifth International Symposium on Vaccinium Culture in Australia, that it was proposed to call this group of interspecific hybrids the orchard rowan (Vaccinium x covilleanum Butkus et Pliszka). It is a cultigenic group of complex interspecific hybrids, combining varieties derived from crosses between 3-4 species of Mullein – Tall, Southern, Narrow-leaved, and Scarlet. Named after Dr. F.V. Coville, the author of the first hybrids.

The orchard rowan came to us from North America.

Vaccinium
Vaccinium

Cultivation

The cultivation of orchard-grown blueberries is widespread all over the world – in the USA, Canada (where 95 % of the world’s blueberry harvest is grown), Germany, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Finland, as well as in South Africa, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Argentina, and is growing rapidly in Poland, and plantations have been established in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, and Ukraine.

The first place where the plant was introduced was in the United States of America. Currently, the largest number of plantations of plantain are in this country, with over 27 000 ha of plantations. In the USA, technologies for the cultivation of plantation Blueberries have been developed, and research work based on the latest genetic techniques is continuing. In particular, there are a large number of plantations in Michigan, Washington, Oregon, Georgia, New Jersey, California, and Indiana. Mississippi, North Carolina, and Florida.

In Europe, the first plantations were established in 1923, and varietal research only started in 1964 in Germany and the Netherlands. In the latter country, the first European exchange for planting Blueberries was opened. In 1980, 59 varieties were registered and today more than 150 varieties are known. They have been developed not only in the USA but also in Germany, Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Poland.

Related articles:

Blueberry Planting Instructions

Maintenance of Blueberries

Blueberry Yields, Quality, Consumption

Freezing Blueberries

Blueberry Yield per Country 2016

USA 239 071

Canada 109 007

Poland 12 731

Germany 10 277

Mexico 10 160

France 9 011

Netherlands 5 498

Spain 5 000

Sweden 2 888

New Zeland 2 718

(tons)

Blueberries Vaccinium
Blueberries Vaccinium

Chemical Composition and Medicinal Properties of the Berries

The Blueberry is one of the most valuable and tasty plants in the garden. They are unique in that they accumulate what the human body needs most. The berries have a high antioxidant content that does not diminish even with long storage. Blueberries are most valued for their anthocyanins, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds. These compounds protect cells from the effects of free radicals, inhibit aging, reduce capillary permeability, strengthen blood vessels, regulate the endocrine glands, and protect against tumor formation and inflammation. Pectic substances help to remove accumulated slags and heavy metals from the human body, neutralize the effects of radioactive substances by binding and removing strontium and cobalt from the body. Pectin, together with tannic substances and glycosides, inhibits inflammation and kills microbes. Scientists say that of 40 samples of berries, vegetables and fruit studied, Blueberries were found to contain the highest levels of antioxidants – chlorogenic acid, quercetin, myricetin, kaempferol, carotene, and lutein. They slow down the damaging effects of free radicals and thus the aging process, protecting against atherosclerosis, cancer, and degenerative diseases.

Blueberries Vaccinium
Blueberries Vaccinium

Nutrition Value

The berries contain 0,54 g/100 g of organic succinic, citric, quinic, and ellagic acids, 9,23 g/100 g of carbohydrates (50 % fructose and 49 % glucose), 5 % of pectin, 300 mg/100 g of anthocyanins (about 1000 mg/100 g in the berry pulp), 103,4 mg/100 g of catechins, the same amount of flavonoids, and carotenoid content. Vitamins are not abundant in Blueberries, but they are varied: per 100 g of berries there are 0,02 mg of vitamin B, 0,02 mg of vitamin B, 0,3 mg of PP, 16 mg of C, 0,29 mg of A, 6 mg of folic acid, 16 mg of calcium, 13 mg of phosphorus, 0,8 mg of iron, etc.

Micro and macro elements: calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, manganese – beneficial for the cardiovascular system. Particularly important are the phenolic compounds in the berries, which strengthen the capillary walls. Blueberries are rich in fiber, which lowers blood cholesterol levels.

The overall complex of sugars, organic acids, tannic and aromatic substances improves appetite, stimulates the release of gastric juices, and speeds up bowel function.

It protects against inflammation of the urinary tract and reduces the risk of urinary tract infections. Bioactive compounds prevent bacteria from attacking the healthy cells that line the walls of the urinary tract.

The carbohydrate content is mainly fructose, which makes bilberries ideal for diabetics.

A particularly valuable characteristic of blueberries is that they never cause allergies, but rather relieve them, so they can be eaten by children with diathesis. The berries are juicy (about 85 % of their weight is water) and, like all juicy fruits, they are classified as a dietary product.

They are low in calories, low sodium, and high in potassium and are therefore recommended for people wishing to lose weight. The berries can be eaten fresh (57 kcal/100 g berries) or frozen (54 kcal/100 g berries). Dried berries can be used to treat diarrhea.

Anthocyanins give the berries their flavor, aroma, and color, protect the eyes, and the abundance of retinol, lutein and zeaxanthin in bilberries enhances eyesight and reduces eye fatigue in computer users, and is, therefore, the reason for the composition of bilberry extractives.

Of all the known vitamins, the most valuable is vitamin K. The main function of vitamin K is to regulate blood coagulation, the process by which glucose is converted into glycogen. If you are deficient in this vitamin, you will suffer from various bleeding disorders, such as heavy menstrual bleeding, frequent nosebleeds, gum bleeds, and palla 1. Vitamin K also dissolves cholesterol and calcium deposits on the walls of blood vessels and transports the dissolved substances to where they are most needed – to the bones. This process protects the body against osteoporosis.

All these unique properties make Blueberries very valuable in the diet of infants, as well as in the diet of infants or patients with serious illnesses. Fresh berries are the most valuable, but they can also be frozen and dried. It is very important that the chemical composition of the berries is only slightly altered when kept in the freezer. They are just as useful as fresh ones. They are used in cooking, juicing, confectionery, and culinary applications for a wide range of dishes and condiments. They are also used to make natural colors for alcoholic beverages, confectionery, jellies, and jams.

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