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On Blueberry Hill: Featured Park of the Month Part 3

I love blueberries. Sometimes I feel like I could mimic Bubba’s love for shrimp in the movie Forrest Gump except for me it’s with blueberries. I love raw blueberries, blueberry tea, blueberry pancakes, blueberry pie, and well, you get the point. I not only love the taste, I love the health benefits and I love that summer is the season for blueberries. Frankly, I am all about anything considered healthy, that tastes like a sweet indulgence.

Pick your own blueberries at Grayson Highlands State Park in August
Nature packs power into blueberries

The health benefits of blueberries may actually be even more notable than their beautiful blue hue and fresh taste. With a reputation as a “super food”, you know they have to be good and good for you.

If you want to make them just a little better for you, throw in a trip to Grayson Highlands State Park. Why? Blueberries grow wild at the park.

And for the price of the parking fee ($4 weekdays/$5 weekends), you can pick all you want! So combine a relaxing day (or weekend), a nice hike, and the berries themselves, and you have one healthy excursion. 

You can hike at your own pace and get a blueberry as a reward
Hike at your own pace to get the sweet reward

These small berries pack a big punch against many diseases. They have been found to help in protecting the eye’s retina from damage, and contribute to cardiovascular health by improving blood fat balance, reducing cholesterol, and lowering triglycerides. The berry’s sweet taste could be mistaken as a sugary fruit; however, it is actually low on the glycemic index. With such a low GI, blueberries actually have a favorable impact on blood sugar regulation in people with Type 2 diabetes and have been found to aid in blood sugar balance. The health benefits don’t stop here. Studies have shown that blueberries can improve memory (I need all the help I can get for my memory) and potentially slow down or postpone cognitive problems that come along with aging. They are also rich in Vitamin K, Vitamin C, and Manganese and have anti-cancer properties, anti-inflammatory benefits, and antioxidants that provide fully body protection and support. Research has shown that every single system in the body benefits from blueberry consumption.  

Pick your own blueberries at Grayson Highlands State Park
Blueberry pie is a great summer dessert

The best time to pick the berries is during blueberry season, lasting from May to October each year. At Grayson Highlands State Park the berries are expected to be ripe the first part of August!

The secret to picking the best blueberries is to choose firm berries that are lively and in color. After they have been picked, it is important to wait to wash the berries until just before you are ready to eat them. Washing the berries too soon will remove the bloom that protects the berries’ skin from degradation. They can then be eaten right away, stored in a covered container for up to 3 days, or frozen. Surprisingly, freezing the berries does not damage the antioxidants, so they can be picked fresh during the summer months and used all throughout the year.

Click here for a google map to Grayson Highlands State Park and is located from Roanoke, 2.5 hours; Winston-Salem, 1.5 hours; or Charlotte just 1.5 hours!

Click here for more information about this beautiful state park near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia's two highest mountains, Grayson Highlands offers scenic views of alpine-like peaks more than 5,000 feet high. Facilities include a visitor center, campgrounds, and hiking trails leading to waterfalls and overlooks. Scenic horse trails and a horse camping area with electric and water hookups, stables and parking for trailers are available. The park provides year-round access to the Appalachian Trail and the Virginia Highlands Horse Trail.

Published: 07/15/2014

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