North American Blueberries.
All blueberries are part of the species Vaccinium Ericaceae which are found in almost every state and province in some manner. Besides the two prominent commercial species — there are wild blueberries found in the forests and plains which were known and cherished. From the Arctic to the wilds of Florida, wherever these blueberries were found — they were gathered and integrated into the diets and medicine culture of the Native Americans or First Nations of Canada.
Throughout the 1,000 page book, 15 species of Vaccinium were documented as important to more than 300 tribes from the Inuit in the Arctic to the Seminoles in the South. Today’s commercial blueberry regions are also home to tribes such as the Algonquin, Chippewa Ojibwa, Irioquois among others. All have their own food and medicine culture which continues today.
>Leaves of blueberry plants were dried and smoked in what the Algonquin nations called “Kinnikinnick” (tobacco alternative)
>The Chippewa harvested blueberry blossoms and steamed them on hot rocks in sweat lodges. This treatment was thought to encourage health and prosperity for the upcoming season.
>The Ojibwa nations infused the blueberry leaves into a tea which was considered a blood purifier.
>Blueberries were consumed by women in many tribes to gain stength especially after child birth.
>Children were fed mashed blueberries with stems for intestinal difficulties. >Seminoles considered blueberries to be good for eyesight.
>Irioquois applied mashed blueberries to skin to treat rashes and skin problems.
>Tribes all over North America preserved blueberries through sun drying,
>In colder climates, tribes mixed blueberries with animal fats and pressed into cakes as hunting and war rations.
> In the Northeast, tribes soaked blueberries in maple syrup to osmotically preserve.
>In the Southeast, tribes mashed blueberries into corn and pumpkin cakes along with harsh tasting medicinal herbs. The blueberries helped to mask astringent flavors.
>In the Pacific Northwest, tribes mashed and mixed blueberries with smoked fish and meats.
> In the Northwest and Alaska, blueberies were combined with fish eggs as a summer treat.
>Many tribes made soups with blueberries and included meats, fish and medicinal herbs.