Posts Tagged “blueberries”
by Sharon Durham, USDA AgResearch Magazine
Up until the early 1900s, blueberries were picked from the wild, and the bushes of the berries often did not survive when transplanted elsewhere. True domestication-involving propagation of the plant by the grower and plant breeding to improve desirable traits-was beyond reach until 1910. That’s when USDA botanist Frederick Coville discovered that blueberry bushes require moist, acidic soil to thrive. In 1916, exactly a century ago, the first commercial cultivated crop of highbush blueberries was harvested.
That history is now enhanced by Baby Blues, a cultivar released in cooperation with the Oregon State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station and the Washington State University’s Agricultural Research Center (ARS). This new blueberry is making its debut during the 100th anniversary of the first cultivated blueberry crop to go to market.
“Baby Blues is a vigorous, high-yielding, small-fruited, machine-harvestable highbush blueberry with outstanding fruit quality. It’s well-suited for those processing markets that require a small fruit size,” says Finn. “Baby Blues should offer growers and processors an alternative to the low-yielding Rubel highbush blueberry, and it may thrive in milder areas where northern highbush blueberries are grown.”
Finn also developed a new blackberry named Columbia Giant. This thornless, trailing blackberry cultivar came from the same breeding program as Baby Blues and was also released in cooperation with the Oregon State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station.
“This cultivar is a high-quality, high-yielding, machine-harvestable blackberry with firm, sweet fruit that, when processed, is similar to or better in quality than fruit from the industry standards Marion and Black Diamond,” says Finn. “Due to its extremely large size, however, Columbia Giant will most commonly be sold in the fresh market.”
Columbia Giant is adaptable to areas where other trailing blackberries successfully grow.
“Two Tasty New Berries From ARS” was published in the September 2016 issue of AgResearch Magazine.
In fact, people aged 51 to 68 are the least interested in buying peaches. Those of that age who do buy peaches prefer sweet, melting-texture peaches. Although they did not study the reason older people don’t like peaches as much, UF/IFAS scientists think older consumers may have repeatedly bought poor-quality peaches in the past, triggering an interest in other fruits.
Overall, consumers want sweet, tasty peaches that melt in your mouth, she said.
In the newly published study titled: “In Pursuit of the Perfect Peach,” Olmstead led an experiment in which 300 consumers took an online survey, then sampled peaches at two Florida farmers’ markets.
The study showed the “ideal peach” depended on combinations of fruit qualities. Peaches labeled as “so sweet … no sugar was needed” were most likely be purchased, reflecting what previous UF/IFAS research has found about strawberries and blueberries.
Furthermore, like the prior UF/IFAS research on blueberries, even though peaches are known to contain antioxidants, consumers buy them more for their taste than their nutritive value, the study showed.
Although consumers wanted sweet, absolute sugar concentrations, there is something other than sweetness that leads to overall liking, the study showed. It could be acid content and aromas, Olmstead said.
Most consumers prefer melting peaches, but small segments also like crisp and firm fruit, the study showed.
Salmonella can grow on bruised blueberries kept at shipping or retail display temperatures, according to a new study in the Journal of Food Protection. The study was conducted by researchers at the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Citrus Research and Education Center at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida,
Strawberries and blueberries harvested at or near full-ripe maturity and softer than those that are not as ripe and therefore more susceptible to bruising during harvest and transport. The researchers wanted to see how E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella behaved on bruised fruit and intact fruit at shipping temperature, 35.6˚ F, and retail display 59.9˚ F. So they The bruised the berries inoculated them with bacteria and observed.
They found that the E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella did not grow on strawberries at shipping or retail display temperatures. But that Salmonella did grow on bruised fully ripe blueberries at retail display temperatures.
Salmonella causes an infection called salmonellosis. Symptoms include abdominal cramps, fever, vomiting and diarrhea that can be bloody.
Though they are normally found in breakfast items, blueberries are showing up in dished served all throughout the day. They are reported as the third most-purchased fruit, trailing only strawberries and apples, according to a press release.
“We learned from a top 500 chain menu survey earlier this year that blueberry mentions on menus boomed 97 percent between 2007 and 2013,” says Mark Villata, executive director for the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council (USHBC). “Now, this usage and attitude study gives us insight into why. That is, what are the drivers influencing decision makers to increase their use of blueberries?”
When asked why they like using blueberries, the survey reports that chefs and operators say:
*Blueberries are a healthy option for customers (82 percent)
*Blueberries are low-labor and easy to use (82 percent)
*Blueberries give the entire operation a health halo (58 percent)
*Menu prices can be higher for items that include blueberries (42 percent)
“Blueberries are delicious, healthy and versatile, and add to our menu,” says David Goldstein, executive chef at Los Angeles-based Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill. “Our menu is loaded with fresh, healthy foods so when we put together our Harvest Quinoa Superfood Salad, we added dried blueberries. These days, I think customers expect to find blueberries in the healthiest options.” In addition, Sharky’s offers handmade, freshly prepared lemonades; one of their newest is Blueberry Mint made with fresh blueberries.
A survey conducted by Hebert Research in 2013 showed that 99% of Americans believe blueberries are healthy, according to a press release. With demand for healthy menu items increasing, it will be interesting to see what dishes start showing up on menus.
Scientists from North Carolina State University, Purdue University and Rutgers University investigated how extracts from blueberries, grape seeds, hibiscus, blackcurrant and Chinese mulberries, all of which are rich in health-promoting phytochemicals, could suppress cell death caused by Parkinson’s. The study, Neuroprotective effects of anthocyanin- and proanthocyanidin-rich extracts in cellular models of Parkinson’s disease, was published in the March 25 issue of the Brain Research scientific journal.
Two specific classes of phytochemicals are effective against the neurodegeneration or loss of nerve cell function in the brain brought on by Parkinson’s,the study indicates. Anthocyanins and proanthocyanidins are naturally occurring plant compounds prevalent in some fruits and vegetables.
“Blueberries have both of these natural chemicals in high concentrations, so they pack a more powerful, 1-2 punch,” researcher Mary Ann Lila, director of North Carolina State University’s Plants for Human Health Institute in Kannapolis, N.C., said in a release. “They can have synergistic benefits that surpass many other fruits when it comes to protection against brain cell death, which in turn may reduce the risk of contracting Parkinson’s.”
In the U.S., 1 million people are estimated to suffer from Parkinson’s, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that involves the malfunction and death of vital brain nerve cells. The disease leaves people unable to control movement normally. Early symptoms include shaking, stiffness, slowed movement and difficulty walking.
“We do these surveys every five years to make sure we’re moving the needle, and this one shows an excellent return on our investment,” said John Shelford, a member of the council’s promotion committee. “We went from 39 percent awareness of health benefits in 2004 to 84 percent today, more than doubling awareness in 10 years. That’s remarkable.”
As in 2008, the typical blueberry consumer in 2013 was upscale, well educated and white — but more likely to be from a minority. Consumers, primarily ages 46 to 65 in 2008, have grown more likely to be 35 to 44.
“We really have been focusing our efforts on developing the future generation,” Shelford said. “In terms of market channel, fresh has a preference with customers. We work hard to bring fresh to them, but it’s challenging given the labor situation. The industry has a number of ready-to-eat providers today thanks to new sorting methods, so the consumer can have that fruit before it’s frozen.”
Shoppers are now likely to buy blueberries based solely on health benefits, the survey found.
Asked what they like most about the fruit, consumers cited health (84%), taste (81%), convenience (61%) and versatility (44%), among other attributes.
Nutritional benefits were widely acknowledged. For example,, 99 % believe blueberries are a healthy food.
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, in a study supported by the Alpro Foundation Grant and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, published the report last September.
The Wild Blueberry Association of North America in Portland, ME donated blueberry test materials (typically freeze dried powder of whole blueberries) for the study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Reading in Reading, United Kingdom, University Dusseldorf, Dusseldorf, Germany, and the University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K.
The findings are the first to link wild blueberry polyphenols, natural compounds that are present in goods volume in wild blueberries, to improvements in vascular function in healthy men, according to a news release from the WBANA.
“Importantly, even the lowest amount of wild blueberries tested in the study, equivalent to 3/4 cup of wild blueberries, was able to improve endothelial function, which is an amount easy to incorporate into a daily diet,” Ana Rodriguez-Mateos, from the Division of Cardiology, Pulmunology and Vascular Medicine at the University of Dusseldorf, said in the release.
“The simple message is eat your fruits and vegetables in all the colors,” said David Bell, executive director of the Wild Blueberry Commission. Bell said the research on health benefits may perhaps be true for cultivated blueberries, but researchers only studied wild blueberries.
Less than one percent of Maine’s wild blueberries are sold fresh, with nearly all the harvest frozen. Maine’s growers harvest about 86 million pounds of wild blueberries annually.
Bell said there are many more health studies “in the pipeline,” with more studies using clinical human trials and also delving into the “why” behind apparent health benefits.“What I think we are figuring out is that blueberries are up regulating some (positive) genes and down regulating other (negative) genes,” he said.
The university’s Linus Pauling Institute (LPI) analyzed 446 compounds to test their effects on immunity, and observed a positive correlation with resveratrol and pterostilbene, found in red grapes and blueberries respectively.
The researchers saw these compounds worked in synergy with vitamin D and had a significant impact in raising the expression of the human CAMP (cathelicidin antimicrobial peptide) gene that is involved in immune function.
“Out of a study of hundreds of compounds, just these two popped right out,” LPI principal investigator Adrian Gombart said in a release.
“Their synergy with vitamin D to increase CAMP gene expression was significant and intriguing. It’s a pretty interesting interaction.”
The two compounds, known as stilbenoids, are produced by plants to fight infections.
The studies were supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research.
While the folks in New Jersey who are paid to promote Jersey agriculture, they are touting great crops of peaches, blueberries and vegetables this year. However, excessive rains the first half of June may have an impact on shipments. Just keep an eye on what you are loading in case quality has been adversely affected.
Full crops of peaches and blueberries are being forecast for this season. Blueberry loadings are just now starting in the southern part of New Jersey, while peach shipments should get underway in mid July and continue into mid August.
The asparagus harvest is underway and other vegetables are expected to follow soon.
New Jersey ranks second nationally in blueberry shipments.
However, most agricultural products are in the greenhouse and nursery products sector. Roses, chrysanthemums, geraniums, lilies, orchids and poinsettias are all grown for the urban markets. Nursery products include grass sod and ornamental shrubs (arborvitae, holly, juniper).
Concerning produce, New Jersey ships significant amounts of of asparagus, bell peppers, eggplant, endive, lettuce and spinach.
Cabbages, snap peas and corn are also raised. Additionally, the state has apples, peaches and strawberries, although the later is mainly involvedwith pick your own operations.
Two of the biggest markets for Jesery produce are New York City and Philadelphia, although shipments do occur in many other eastern markets.
While studies have shown transporting strawberries and some other produce items in a modified atmosphere extends the quality and lifespan of the items, how safe are these food items to eat that have been exposed to carbon dioxide (CO2) for nearly a week?
Rich Macleod, a scientist and basically the manager of the pallet divison for Transfresh Corp. feels this is a reasonable question for people to ask.
“The use of carbon dioxide in the handling of perishables is incredibally common,” Macleod states. He points to the use of CO2 in soda, which are the bubbles you see.
As for TransFresh, Macleod says the Organic Material Research Institute has certified the Tectrol application as organic. “So we are certified for use as an organic product,” he states. “The impact of CO2 in terms of maintaining the quality of the product….using a gas we breath in the environment, is an excellent trade off for what you get for enjoying more strawberries.”
As previously reported in this series, using the pallet covered system, Tectrol (CO2), results in less decay in strawberries (see chart).
Macleod, who started out as a lab assistant with a masters degree in post harvest science, sees the next step in research being to define what CO2 does for the nutrient value of strawberries. Such a study has never been done, he notes. He is hopeful such research will take place within the next five years.
While Tectrol’s primary use is with strawberries, it also is used with raspberries, blueberries and other items.
However, it also is found in containers on shipments by boat with items such as avocados, asparagus, and stone fruit for both imports and exports that are in transit eight to 10 days.
“Your cut salads are all cousins to the wrapped pallet program (with modified atmospheres). In fact, the cut salad program preceeded the pallet covered program,” Macleod says.
(This is Part 5 0f 6, featuring an interview with Rich Macleod, vice president, pallet division North America for TransFresh Corp., Salinas, CA. He has been with company since 1976, and has a masters degree in post harvest science from the University of California, Davis.)