With summer approaching its end, so is berry picking season. Gathering Alaskan berries brings people outside and gets them moving, while simultaneously providing delicious fruits to eat, freeze, can, bake with or dry. There are some that believe Alaska berries have more nutrients and antioxidants than those in the lower 48.
Alaska is home to blueberries, cranberries, currents, salmon berries and strawberries. Each provide vitamins, fiber and antioxidants that can help prevent chronic diseases. However, their nutrients may be underestimated.
Associate Professor of University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service Leslie Shallcross says Alaska berries are the most abundant fruit in the state. She says berries are natural nutrition power houses.
“Alaska wild berries, when compared to berries in the lower 48 or commercially produced berries, have much higher levels of the antioxidant pigments and antioxidant compounds that are found in berries and that are presumed to be the big benefits of berries. When you talk about nutrients you’re talking about things that we know are essential for human life. Berries are rich sources of Vitamin C. Cloudberries are a very rich source of Vitamin C, berries in general are going to provide some potassium , trace amounts of some of the other minerals that we need. They also contain in the seeds some essential fatty acids.”
Shallcross says although there isn’t any concrete evidence to explain why, berries in Alaska have more nutrients.
“We suspect that it is because the wild berries are exposed to sort of different levels of stress that stimulates them to produce more of the antioxidant pigments. It might also have to do with the extra-long days and exposure to more sunlight.”
She says the pigments the berries pick up from the sun provide protection for the plant. Whatever the reason, the fact remains, cup for cup, cloudberries in Alaska contain three times the amount of Vitamin C than orange juice.
Vitamin C is an important antioxidant for tissue growth and repair. It forms proteins that make skin and blood vessels, it helps with healing wounds, repairing cartilage and teeth. Shallcross says the best way to receive all the natural nutrients from fruit is to eat them fresh-- however, freezing or making fruit leather produces a high antioxidant product.
“The antioxidant potential that it has is linked to cancer, heart disease, arthritis. So Vitamin C is important.”
Altogether, Shallcross says, there are around 40 different edible berries, although not all of them taste great. She says her top favorite are cloudberries and raspberries.