In Chippewa, minaga’wunj, blueberry. Lowbush (also called “low sweet”) blueberry is common here, as is velvet-leaf blueberry (vaccinium myrtilloides) which thrives around marshes. I’ve heard a few personal anecdotes from locals about picking blueberries all the while watching a black bear or bears doing the same nearby.
The shorter species of “vaccinium” are cranberries and the ones taller are huckleberries. In some herbal reference books one or the other is lumped with blueberries.
Edible Uses of Blueberry
Blueberries can be eaten fresh, frozen, dried, any which way. They are traditionally dried and mixed with moose fat and deer tallow to preserve them, the dried berries boiled before use. Edible berries have been the crop of invention of countless recipes including syrups, jams, drinks, and of course desserts. Blueberry standouts include “bog blueberry wine” and Nova Scotian blueberry grunt. Blueberries in bannock is a popular dish in Canada too.
Rich in Antioxidants and Vitamin C.
Medicinal Uses of Blueberry
Blueberry is primarily said to support these body systems:
- Endocrine (? see below)
Medicinal tags include Anti-Inflammatory, Astringent, and Diuretic. See Medicinal tag key for more information.
Common usage includes the typical berry/astringency sort – like blueberry juice boiled down to a syrup for diarrhea, or the roots boiled or leaves steeped as a tea for the same purpose. If you’ve been going through plants here at Song of the Woods, one by one, that will sound berry familiar.
While you likely associate related cranberries with treating UTIs blueberry leaf tea can also be added to the urinary herbal support repertoire.
There are studies in relation to blueberries improving glucose tolerance and lowering the risk of developing type-2 diabetes, but it’s only a small number of clinical studies as I write this. However, there is no doubt they are a healthful addition to the pantry.
The berries make a navy blue dye.
Growing Native Blueberries
Blueberries do well in our Halliburton area due to acidic soil and they are more consistent and less maintenance than brambles. Plus no thorns! And if like me, you want to see bears pass through your property, a large enough swath of them will do it, But the bears may not be impressed enough by the smell of just a couple blueberry bushes. Maybe that’s a reassurance to some of you – plant a few! If you go wild planting or propagating blueberries, there’s such a thing as a blueberry rake to save time harvesting.
You can propagate your bushes by burying branches to root on their own or using a rooting hormone and growing them from young twigs over the course of a few months. I’m experimenting with both routes. Because for one, I like foraging with black bears. The low bush really is low, great for bordering edges. Other species can get quite shrubby. They all have leaves that turn a beautiful red at summers end.
The leaves are tannin rich, so use in moderation.
And the Usual Cautions:
1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation.
2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk.
3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored. Herbalists do not have an official certification yet, but that may be in the works.
4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.
5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.
Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants