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Greek-American Stories: Blueberries Blues

October 8, 2019
Phyllis “Kiki” Sembos

In a previous article I had written about Stinging Nettles (Tsouknides) and its awesome healing and beneficial properties. Having read the excellent article by Maria Christodoulou on the everlasting traditions of Herbal Medicine, it verifies and proves that the ancient Greeks were brilliant in their findings. She can tell you much more than I ever could about the benefits of the various herbs and flowers than I could. She knows that the natural world is absolutely brimming with incredible offerings that support our health besides fresh air, sunshine, and water. There are herbal remedies and medicinal plants that work better and safer with none of the dangerous side effects of chemicals.

I wish to bring to your attention one more plant although you probably, already, have some knowledge about it.

Blueberries, besides being beautiful in the garden and can be grown in patio containers, can be planted in a variety of climate zones provided they get sunshine and an acid solution added to the soil. Rich with flavonoids and anthocyanins, they have an overwhelming effect on our health. Researchers have found that blueberries can decrease inflammation, protect DNA cells from damage and prevent cancer before it begins. In a study published in 2013 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, blueberries were found to decrease tumor volume and metastatic activity, as well. And, that’s not all. Blueberries are excellent for the brain too, able to improve memory. In that same journal, researchers found that they are so neuroprotective that they decrease dementia symptoms and even boost moods in elderly patients.

I have two blueberry bushes in my backyard. They are so pretty as a bush and they’re about three years old. Do I get blueberries? That’s another story. It took a while before they matured. I watched and waited. Then one day early this June, I was so excited to see the fragile branches covered with tiny white blossoms, so decorative and pretty – and they promised to reward me with mature fruit very soon.  All I had to do was wait until the little white flowers turned into little green berries. I checked on them often. I fantasized I would have enough berries to treat my grandkids to my blueberry pound cake. After a couple of weeks, armed with a small wicker basket, I went to the bushes and searched for the dark blue fruit. Not many berries were in sight excepting for a few situated in back of the taller branches that were still green. Where are they? Birds? They were busy at the bird feeders at the other end of the yard. Raccoons? Nah! They come out at night. I doubt they could spot berries in the dark. Disappointed and a little miffed, I went back into the house, thinking about tossing a thin net over the remaining ones to prevent the poachers.

Then, early one morning, as I went to check on those last berries, about twenty of them, I believed I’d caught the thief.  In a tree besides the bushes was a grey, bushy tailed squirrel who kept an eye on me with suspicious curiosity, probably checking to see if I knew about those remaining berries. There they were, about twenty, or so, plump berries that shone dark blue in the early sun. But, that’s when I realized I’d forgotten my basket. No time to race back. That wily critter would grab them long before me in my bare feet that felt little stabs of pain from stepping on acorns that had fallen from the oak tree. So, I plucked a few berries right there and popped some in my mouth. Having climbed to a lower branch the wily thief watched me as I picked, stuffing some in my apron pocket. He actually cackled! I won this round. I thought of buying two more blueberry bushes and placing them in patio containers. They grow to about six feet, but, I imagined myself lugging them to safety whenever a squirrel planned a raid. So, in the meantime, I went to the super market and bought a small basket full of blueberries (organic like mine, of course) on sale at the super market to bake those pound cakes. At least squirrels can’t go to Whole Foods. Anyway, I just wanted to tell you about nature’s most wonderful, delicious invention that, in early spring, grows pretty, tiny white flowers and then rewards us with wonderful fruit. If you can get to them, yum! “Nature, itself is the best physician.” Hippocrates

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