The blueberry deserves its reputation as the 'superberry' because of its high levels of powerful antioxidants and tannins, which can help to protect the body's cells by neutralizing free radicals in the bloodstream.
In a comparison of 25 common fruits, blueberries had among the highest antioxidant capacity,1 and several studies have suggested that they may be capable of inhibiting cancer cell development and dampening inflammation.2
Eating blueberries on a regular basis has been found to increase memory and learning ability in older adults.3 Blueberries also offer cardiovascular benefits—they were found to improve the function of the endothelial cells that line blood vessels in one clinical trial of patients with the metabolic syndrome,4 and animal studies suggest they may also lower blood cholesterol levels.5
The tonic and antibacterial properties of blueberries are most marked in the dried berries, which can be used as a simple and effective treatment for diarrhoea.
Blueberries may also improve night vision and eyesight, as well as ease tired eyes, as they are rich in sight-supporting antioxidant pigments called anthocyanins.6
Rose hips are full of seeds, and although we think of them as berries, they are more properly defined as fleshy pseudofruits. Valued as a source of nutrition and medicine for centuries, wild rose hips are easy to find and can be cooked to make delicious syrups, jellies and jams, or infused as a refreshing herbal tea—but always filter to eliminate any seed hairs.
Rose hip juice is claimed to have 20 times more vitamin C than orange juice and is highly regarded as a tonic. Eaten raw, rose hips have an intense apple-like flavour, and they're excellent served as a snack or in salads, or can be baked in breads. The name 'dog rose' is thought to refer to the plant's use in past centuries to treat bites from rabid dogs. Rose hips also have a long tradition of being taken to relieve respiratory and digestive conditions.
Today, rose hips are thought to help improve immunity to infections, boost energy levels, maintain the health of mucous membranes, enhance wound healing and help prevent heart disease and the development of cancer cells.7
Recent studies show that rose hips may also be useful in the treatment of arthritis, helping to relieve pain from sore and inflamed joints.8
Taking rose hips regularly has been shown to lower systolic blood pressure and "bad" cholesterol levels in obese people, which could significantly reduce their cardiovascular risk.9
Blueberry (Vaccinium cyanococcus)
The blueberry is pale green at first, changing to red and then purple before turning deep blue when ripe. Blueberries have a distinctive sweet, slightly acidic taste, and their popularity means they are grown commercially all over the globe, making it possible to enjoy them fresh almost all year round.
Blueberries belong to the heather family (Ericaceae) and grow wild throughout North America, Europe and Asia, and are often mistaken for another blue berry, the bilberry, which is also commonly gathered and eaten in Europe. It is easy to distinguish between the two by cutting the berries in half: ripe blueberries have white or greenish flesh, while bilberries are coloured purple throughout. The leaves can be either deciduous or evergreen, with or without finely toothed edges. The flowers are bell-shaped, white, pale pink or red and appear from late spring into summer, while the berries ripen at different times from early summer into autumn.
New cultivars are easy to grow in the garden, preferring a slightly acidic habitat in good compost.
Blueberries make tasty, low-calorie snacks and can be enjoyed fresh, dried or frozen. They are an ideal natural dietary supplement as they are packed with nutrients while being low in sugars and fat.
Phytonutrients: Blueberries contain vitamins A, C, E, K, B1, B2, B3 and B6, folate, potassium, manganese, copper, antioxidants (anthocyanins and flavonoids), mucilage and tannins.
Store unblemished fresh berries in the refrigerator for a week or so. Rinse just before use, or freeze in an airtight, resealable bag or box, taking care not to squash them
Rose Hip-Marinated Chicken with Blueberry Salad
Preparation and cooking time: 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes marinating
300 g/10 oz chicken breast fillet or firm tofu, sliced
1 Tbsp olive oil
For the marinade:
4 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp French mustard
4 garlic cloves
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp orange juice
100 g/3 oz rose hips, choke and seeds removed (see top
1 tsp curry powder
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
4 large handfuls of salad leaves, shredded
200 g/7 oz/1 ¹⁄³ cups green peas, blanched
200 g/7 oz blueberries
50 g/1 oz/heaped ¹⁄³ cup pecan nuts
1) Blend all the marinade ingredients into a paste. Reserve half the marinade to use later as a dressing for the salad.
2) Put the sliced chicken in a non-metallic bowl and pour over the remaining marinade.
3) Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
4) Preheat the oven to 160°C/315°F/Gas mark 2-3. Fry the chicken slices in the oil for a few minutes until brown on both sides, then transfer to a baking dish and bake for 10 minutes, or until cooked through.
5) Meanwhile, combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Top with the cooked chicken and drizzle with the reserved marinade dressing. Serve with ciabatta bread.
Tip: Jujube berries or persimmons can be substituted for the rose hips
Rose hip (Rosa canina, Rosa rugosa and spp)
Wild rose species belonging to the rose family (Rosaceae), including the dog rose and the beach rose, are commonly found growing alongside streams and in hedgerows and woods throughout Europe, America, North Africa and southwest Asia. There are over 100 different species, varying from low bushes to large shrubs, but all have one thing in common: small, sharp thorns, which enable the wild rose to climb up through hedges, walls and trees. The wild rose's leaves consist of five or seven leaflets and its delicate flowers vary from almost white to pale pink to deep red or purple. The flowers mature into oval, orange or red hips from late summer into the autumn.
Phytonutrients: Rose hips are rich in vitamin C. They also contain carotenoids, tannins, pectins and vitamins A, B1 and B2.
WARNING: The hairs around the seeds can cause irritation and should not be eaten. Remove the seeds and rinse the hips well before eating raw. Use whole hips in teas.
The easiest way to remove rose hip seeds is to cut the berries in half and scoop them out using a teaspoon. Rinse well afterwards.
Adapted from the book Healing Berries by Kirsten Hartvig (Nourish, an imprint of Watkins Publishing, 2016)