Super(food) Powers

Growing your own blueberries could make you healthier.

Ever since blueberries were designated a “superfood” — an elite list that includes salmon, green tea, soy, turkey, and Greek-style yogurt, but few other fruits — they’ve been showing up everywhere. Think salads, protein bars, even in beer. Clearly, they’re not just for pancakes anymore.

WNC is known for its small, wild blueberries in season. But it’s a very short season, one that involves a high-elevation hike and a certain amount of luck. Armed with a little gardening knowledge, it may be more rewarding in the long-term to grow your own berries.

“They’ve been a superfood since pioneer days in this country, since [blueberries] are native to North America,” points out Extension Agent Craig Mauney, who will lead a blueberry-growing workshop this week at nonprofit Bullington Gardens in Henderson County.

“Blueberries are an excellent addition to any landscape, even a small one,” says Mauney. Spring, he says, is the best time to plant. Bushes will thrive in full sun or partial shade — and it’s important to get the soil conditions just right.

Mauney will make sure participants are armed with the correct knowledge to get started. Meanwhile, here’s some more superfood for thought: blueberries get their status because of their “incredibly high” levels of antioxidant phytonutrients, particularly the flavonoid anthocyanin, responsible for the berries’ rich blue-purple hue.

“The darker the berry, the higher the anthocyanin content,” says Mauney. “Blueberries have at least five different anthocyanins in their skin … key players in neutralizing free-radical damage that can lead to a multitude of ailments in our cells and tissue.”

“Growing Blueberries” Workshop. March 8, 3-4:30pm. $12. 828-698-6104. 95 Upper Red Oak Trail in Hendersonville. Bullingtongardens.org.

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