Eat Your Berries! (10 Interesting Facts)

We had an interesting opportunity to participate in the Berry Health Benefits Symposium last week outside of  Los Angeles.

No, until a few months ago we did not know there was a conference dedicated to berries either! but it turns out that every two years, industry and researchers meet to discuss latest findings in the field. This conference is sponsored in part by David Murdock, the billionaire owner of Dole. Murdock, an octogenarian in the body of a 50 year old,  has poured over a Billion dollars of his own fortune (!) into establishing a research center in North Carolina trying to better understand the nutrition value of fruits and vegetables.

So what did we learn at the conference?

1. Berries accounted for $3 Billion in sales last year. A big business.

2. Berries are good for you, in many ways. Scientists like to talk in terms of the “evil Gemini twins” – oxidation and inflammation -  that berries seem to counteract very effectively.

3. Science has barely scratched the surface when it comes to understanding interactions and cross effects of nutrients in foods. Whole foods and berries are no exception. We’ll write more about this in a separate post.

4. Summertime is the best time to get your fresh berries in season, grown in the USA.

5. There is a good and growing trend by consumers to eat their berries fresh rather than processed. For example, fresh blueberry consumptions accounts for almost 60% of annual sales, up a few percentage point each year.

6. Unless you live in Maine, the fresh blueberries you eat are of the “high bush” type. The “low bush” or wild blueberries of the northeast (including Canada) are much smaller and have a very short season. They are mostly frozen and used in food processing.

7. Most of the strawberries grown in the US are from California (88%). About 70% are sold fresh to consumers, up from several years ago.

8. And yet, food manufacturers are looking to incorporate berries into their processed foods, riding the health wave of beneficial antioxidants. The ingredient “strawberry” has led the wave of new product introductions for the last 3 years.

9. Cranberries need a lot of added sugar to be palatable.  Almost equal to their weight. They are just so acidic. It’s almost impossible to find unsweetened cranberry juice or dried cranberries in stores. But they do contain potent antioxidants.

10. Only 5% of berries grown in the US are organic, despite a consumer fear of pesticides. We’ll discuss berry pesticide use in a separate blog post.

At the conference, we were served strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries in all forms, from raspberry consomme, to salad with berries, to salmon in a berry gravy, to various desserts. But to be honest, the best way to enjoy them is still just popping a handful of freshly picked berries straight to the mouth…

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  • Weberd01

    “ Unless you live in Maine,” …Or Upper Peninsula Michigan! 

    Having had wild blueberries, I just can’t stand the megamart variety. :(

    • ella

      i feel that way about strawberries. if you can grow/find your own wild ones, you’ll never want to eat the giant farmed ones again.

  • Mike Lieberman

    Never knew that about the blueberries. Looking forward to your post on the pesticide use.

  • Thom Householder

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    It’s true that a significant part of the Wild Blueberry harvest is used in the foodservice industry, but it’s worth noting that frozen Wild Blueberries are readily available in most grocery freezer cases, along with other frozen fruit.  Frozen Wild Blueberries are available throughout the year, and offer a combination of taste, versatility, convenience and nutrition that’s hard to beat.  

    Home freezers aren’t only for frozen pizzas and processed foods – there are plenty of healthy treats to stock them with as well!

  • Ladygaladriel04

    Mmmmm berries! I love them!

  • Anonymous

    Agree with Thom Householder–nothing to stop people from eating frozen blueberries and nothing wrong with it.  Plenty of high bush blueberries grown in OR, I picked 12 lbs at a u-pick farm last year, will try to pick 15-16 lbs this year–I freeze about 3/4s of what I pick. 

    Anyone who lives in an area w/acid (low pH), sandy soil, & not really hot (FL) can probably grow blueberries (or strawberries), if you have some space (like a 100 foot backyard–10′ x 10′).  Your local agricultural extension office (tax dollars at work to benefit you for a change) may know which varieties do best in your area. 

    Some parts of the US have native berries (like ME has native blueberries), OR has (in addition to at least 5 varieties of domestic berries that grow well here)) the evergreen huckleberry, small tasty berries, good in jam, bush has nice foliage.  Might be fun to do some research, see what’s native to your area and if you can still find it or grow it. 

    Or what domestic fruit varieties do well, a friend from OH told me OH grows great peaches-I had no idea even though I knew MI is the sour cherry capital of the US.  i,e look for local fruits in season.  Buy enough to eat & freeze if you can afford to do so. 

  • Smiller1155

    how do I weigh out the benifits with pesticides in the equation? I have been afraid to eat berries because I keep reading how they are in the dirty 12 list.

  • Cute girl

    I love berries! They are my most favorite thing!