Species

Vaccinium species in the Chinese Materia Medica include the Asiatic bilberry (V bracteatum Thunb.), South China blueberry (V dunalianum var. urophyllum Rehd. and Wils.), and bilberry or lesser bilberry (V fragile Franch.). Other species have a place in traditional medicine in Turkey and in northern climates. The species discussed in this chapter will focus on those harvested for commercial use in North America and parts of Europe.

The bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L.) is native to northern Europe and is also found in parts of North America and Asia. The fruit of this low-growing shrub has an intense dark blue color with pigmented flesh. Bilberries grown in Europe have found application in the pharmaceutical and dietary supplement markets. The commercial drug Difrarel® contains 100 mg of bilberry anthocyanins plus 5 mg of P-carotene, and is prescribed for circulatory ailments.

Blueberries are native to North America and commonly found as either the low-bush or highbush variety. In both varieties, the blue pigments are confined to the berry skin and berries may be harvested mechanically or by hand. The wild or low-bush blueberry (V. angustifolium Ait.) is grown primarily in Maine and eastern Canada. Highbush blueberries (V. corymbosum L.) are commercially grown in large quantities in New Jersey and Michigan (Moore, 1994), as well as in other states that meet the temperature requirements of 800 to 1060 h below 7.2°C without winter temperatures below -24°C (Eck, 1998). In Canada, British Columbia is the largest producer of cultivated highbush blueberries (Villata, 1998) and other major growing regions include Australia, Chile, Germany, and New Zealand. The crop is also being developed in regions of Europe and China. V. ashei Reade, the rabbiteye blueberry, is produced in the southern U.S., with Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, and Texas being the major growing states.

Several cranberry species are grown throughout the world for commercial application. The American cranberry (V macrocarpon Ait.) is produced commercially in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Oregon, Maine, and in other northern states and Canadian provinces. The European or small cranberry (V oxycoccus L.) and the lingonberry (V vitis-idaea L.) may also be found in North America despite their predominance in northern Europe and the former Soviet republics.

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