The black pearl of well-being
One of the world's most well-known and recognisable superfoods grows abundantly in the mountains and forests of our peninsula: the blueberry.
The blueberry plant (Vaccinium) is naturally present in many species and comes in a variety of different shapes and colours. In particular, the fruits can vary from red to dark purple, and have accompanied us for centuries, both as a food and medicine.
The variety most commonly used in the kitchen is the blackberry, which is usually used in cakes and breakfasts, while cranberries are mainly used to make jams and preserves.
Blueberries are a nutritional powerhouse because they contain various elements that have beneficial effects on the body, such as sugars, mineral salts (calcium, phosphorus, iron, sodium and potassium) and vitamins. In particular, Vitamins A, C and B (mainly B1, B2 and B3).
Blueberries, as well as black grapes, owe their dark colour to their anthocyanin content, which also has antioxidant properties and is known to slow down the ageing process. But the benefits do not end here: anthocyanins also have other important properties. The first is that they strengthen and relax blood vessels, thus improving blood flow, so they are used to prevent the development of cardiovascular disease. The second property of the blueberry is that it is an excellent antiseptic, commonly used in the treatment of infections, particularly cystitis and diarrhoea. Finally, another important property of the blueberry is that it helps to improve eyesight, most notably during night-time and in low light conditions.
Here are some fun facts about the blueberry. Usually only the berries of the plant are eaten, but the leaves and buds can also be used to make tea infusions and beauty creams. Blueberries are present in the Alps and the Apennines up to an altitude of two thousand meters above sea level. They bloom in spring and the berries are ready for harvesting in summer, delighting holidaymakers who must be careful not to confuse them with other similar but poisonous plants: the latter have red stems. Moreover, blueberries are used to make another culinary tradition: blueberry grappa. This has less beneficial properties on our bodies, but it certainly makes us feel better!