Extending the shelf life of blueberries

Closeup of Earliblue blueberry, Willamette Valley, Oregon

Story Daniel Robison | Photos Lynn Ketchum | Oregon State University Extension Service
CORVALLIS, Ore. – An Oregon State University researcher has helped discover a substance in blueberry leaves – which are usually wasted – that can be added to berry coatings, extending their shelf life while adding antioxidants.Bucket of Earliblue blueberries

Working with an international team of scientists in China, OSU food scientist Yanyun Zhao found that an edible coating containing blueberry leaf extracts helped delay decay and retain water, which slowed down their natural deterioration. The extra weight could also mean extra cash for growers, because blueberries are often sold by volume.

The natural coatings can allow fresh blueberries to be washed and prepared as ready-to-eat products. Most blueberries in stores are unwashed because rinsing them removes their natural waxy coating that preserves the fruit.

"Normally, blueberry leaves fall to the ground as waste," said Zhao, a food science and technology professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. “We've discovered a use that can change how the berries are stored, sold, as well as increasing their nutritional value.”

Blueberry leaves, which have been used as an herbal remedy, contain high levels of antioxidant phenolics – chemical compounds with antimicrobial properties that protect against fungi and bacteria, such as E. coli and Salmonella.

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