Blueberry and cranberry: medicinal and culinary properties

Blueberries and cranberries are used frequently in cooking and medicine. Here are just a few of their medicinal properties, plus some gardening tips on how to sew them yourself.

Blueberry and cranberry: medicinal and culinary properties

1. Medicinal properties

Blueberry. Vacciniumuluginosum and V. corymbosum.

Part used:the fruit.

The anthocyanidinsin blueberries have antioxidant properties that help to lower blood sugar and improve blood flow. This makes them useful in controlling type II diabetes in older people and maintaining healthy eyes.

Cranberry. V. macrocarpon.

Parts used: the fruit.

Rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, cranberries are an effective remedy for the prevention and treatment of cystitis. Its main effect is to protect the tissue of the urethra against invading bacteria.

2. Use in cooking

  • The fruits can be used in pies, cheesecakes, mousses, sauces, purees, juices, jams and jellies.
  • Blueberry muffins are delicious at breakfast and tea-time. The dried fruits make a highly nutritious addition to muesli or cereal.
  • Blueberries are also very tasty in a yoghurt, or mixed with other fruits or berries as a dessert.

3. Tips for growing

Blueberries grow on a shrub of around 30 centimetres in height. It has deciduous leaves and pink flowers. The berries are sweet, large and bluish black.

  • The bog blueberry and the northern high bush blueberry are sold in a number of different varieties. They were hybridized with other cold-resistant Canadian species, such as the lowbush blueberry.
  • The cranberry is an evergreen creeping shrub with small dark green leaves and flowers that form pale pink bells in summer, followed by red berries. Commercial varieties have larger berries and are harvested at different times.

Varieties

While the highly productive commercial varieties produce large fruits, the Lac-Saint-Jean and Abitibi wild varieties produce small fruit packed with flavour.

They are harvested from late August to early September. Pilgrim is the variety most commonly grown in gardens. It will tolerate drier conditions and produces large, dark red berries.

Where to plant

Blueberries are smaller if grown in pots. Cranberries are most at home in low, wide pots.

Propagation

The deciduous species are grown from softwood cuttings taken in summer. Take semi-hardwood cranberry cuttings or bend the long stems to the ground, securing them with hooks to ensure that they put out roots (layering).

Cuttings need a sandy, non-limestone compost in order to take root.

Care

Clean the deciduous shrubs in late winter, cutting unproductive old shoots and intertwined branches back to the base, so as to give a balanced and airy structure. Prune cranberries after fruiting and cut back the old gnarled branches.

Pests and diseases

Birds and mice love them. Plant them in a cage or cover the plants with individual nets as soon as the fruit begins to ripen.

Harvest and storage

The berries will keep well on the shrub and for several weeks in the refrigerator.

  • Wait until they are a deep colour before harvesting, as the green fruits are bitter.
  • Freeze the berries flat before putting them in bags or plastic boxes.
  • Dry the berries on trays covered with absorbent paper in a well-ventilated cupboard or an oven on minimum temperature.

You're now ready to grow your own blueberries and cranberries to take full advantage of their flavour and their many health benefits!

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