You will find the berries skipping along the trajectory of the year’s longest days. They begin in early June and finish with the first frost. In the Northeast we are blessed with strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, bilberries, currents, blackberries, hawthorn berries, elderberries, and more. Picking a perfectly sun-ripened berry, and popping it directly into your mouth, must be one of humanity’s most timelessly shared pleasures. Berries aren’t just nature’s candy, they are also highly nutritious, causing us to develop all kinds of ways to preserve these gems of summer for the colder and longer days.
Berries are an incredibly therapeutic food, and because they fall low on the glycemic index, they are a good choice for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels. What’s more, many compounds in berries deeply support the cardiovascular tissues from the heart down to the smallest capillaries. Our tissues receive protection and renewal from these compounds through increased flexibility and reduced inflammation, important for all variety of wound healing and stressed tissue.
Berries help to build and improve the quality of blood, which can be important for individuals with low iron or fatigue. They help to quench the thirst, and bring a cooling quality (pointing to their demulcent and anti-inflammatory quality). These same qualities, combined with their soluble and insoluble fiber content, make berries an excellent source for improving bowel function and long-term health. Berries are a perfect example of how blurry the line between food and medicine can be. Enjoy them regularly to maintain health or with intentional therapeutic value in mind.
1/2c of blueberries daily is considered a good medicinal dose, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve frozen the berries. Studies show that the anthocyanins (responsible for much of the antioxidant action) are not altered during the freezing or cooking process. This is good news for that next big harvest! Large-scale berry farming often has chemical and social implications, and because berries are often a high-spray crop consider choosing organically grown local or wild harvested berries whenever possible.
Berries make excellent jams, syrups, compotes, smoothies, and topping. Fresh berries need no frills at all, they carry a sense of joy, sunlight, and vibrancy. Berry picking allows you to spend time outside, nourish yourself, and tune to the seasonal abundance.
By Susan Staley. Susan is a clinical and community herbalist with Railyard Apothecary. You can schedule a consultation with her or our other herbalists at www.burlingtonherbclinic.com. Here’s to your health!
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