Vaccinium myrtillus

Vaccinium myrtillus

The black cranberry (Vaccinium myrtillus L., 1753) is a small shrub (up to 0.8 m) belonging to the Ericaceae family.

Systematic –
From a systematic point of view the black cranberry belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, the Kingdom Plantae, the Magnoliophyta Division, the Magnoliopsida Class, the Ericales Order, the Ericaceae Family and then the Genus Vaccinium and the Specie V. myrtillus.

Etymology –
The generic name Vaccinium of this plant is already found in Virgil to designate the black cranberries. It comes from the archaic Greek ‘vakintos’ (<‘hyakintos’) which originally meant ‘blue flower hyacinth’. The Latinized name was used to designate a blue berry, namely black cranberry. The exact attribution of this Latin word to the blueberry plant is, however, not safe, as in the work of P.A. Mattioli (1567) refers to other plants as well. The specific epithet comes from the Latin ‘myrtillus’, which is the diminutive of myrtus, myrtle, in reference to the similarity of both leaves and berries with those of myrtle.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Vaccinium myrtillus is located in Eurasia and North America. In Italy Vaccinium is represented on the mountains of the Center and North. However, the black cranberry has a rather large cenotic and ecological value as it is present in the peaks and subalpine and mountain beech, provided with acid pH substrate. Its habitat is the forests (mainly spruce), heaths, bushes, subalpine pastures, always on damp substrata with Ph acid. Because of the abundant foliage production and the dense intricacy of roots, it makes the terrains on which it lives more and more acids and for this reason it is a kind of tree that tends to form large populations. Its altimetric area varies from 1200 to 2000 (rarely 300-2800 m) m. s.l.m.

Description –
Cranberry is a small shrub with small toothed leaves, white bell-shaped flowers, and blue-purple berries of height between 20 and 60 cm. The flowers have a typical shape with an inverted nose, with petals welded together, like all the Ericacees. The ovary is hell. Fruits, blues, are pseudo-jokes as they look like berries, but their formation contributes to ovary, sepals, petals and stamens. Its flowering is in May and it fries in July-August.
Under the generic name of blueberry you can actually find several species. The richest of active ingredients is actually Vaccinium myrtillus. Among the most common are the V. corymbosum (American blueberry), which produces much larger fruits than the common blueberry and has a light-colored, rather purple, pulp. It is quietly editable however has a lower content of active ingredients. V. angustifolium and V. myrtilloides are two other species that can be found on the market; V. macrocarpon (cranberry) is characterized by fruits are edible, rather acidid (rich in citric acid and other compounds). They are mainly used in case of cystitis. The V. oxycoccos (wild cranberry or palatine cranberry): in Italy present in the Northeast, in peat bogs and acid marshes. Used similarly to the previous one.

Cultivation –
These small plants can be planted in full sunlight, or preferably in half, especially in places with very hot summers, however, choosing places with a good degree of brightness, a key factor in the production of abundant fruit. They generally do not fear winter cold, though there are more suitable species for the heat, and others more suitable for the cold; in general it is advisable to put the cranberry shrubs away from the wind, which can cause damage to the leaves and cause rapid evaporation of water from the ground. To keep the soil wet and to avoid the excessive development of weeds, it is advisable (where available) to place bark, pine needles, or dry leaves around the plant.
The only important note that cranberry requires is the soil is that it must be particularly acidic, with a pH between 4.5 and 5.5. Therefore, it is good to measure the pH of the soil and, if necessary, treat it with the right fertilizers to achieve the desired acidity level from the blueberry. The seedlings should be positioned at least one meter apart, because the roots are superficial but rather extensive. We always notice that the blueberry loves to have roots always fresh, so, as we have said, we never miss the water, and a good pea and leaf mulch helps to create the ideal conditions for its development.
The blueberry grows well in a pot on the balcony or on the terrace. In this case, the problem of soil and its ph does not exist, it is sufficient to fill the vessel with a specific acidophilic soil. In each pot, which must have a diameter and a depth of at least 40 inches, plant a single blueberry seedlings.
One last note: the blueberry having the superficial roots never use the plumage, much less processing tools, to remove any weeds because you could damage them, use your hands to protect it with a good pair of gloves.
Generally, cranberry fruits mature in succession over a period of 3-4 weeks. These fruits are highly appreciated by consuming fresh or in jam and are also used in both herbal medicine and the pharmaceutical industry, being rich in vitamins and flavonoids.

Uses and Traditions –
Vaccinium myrtillus is an important plant in the treatment of venous disorders (heavy legs, varicose veins). Adjuvant in the treatment of diarrhea. As an antioxidant. Useful for the well-being of the sight.
Very high doses may interfere with anticoagulant or anti-inflammatory drugs.
Cranberry is a very Nordic plant; the black cranberry was soon used by those populations to extract from the fruit dyestuffs with which they dyed blue-purple fabrics, to distill the berries, obtaining a pleasant spirits named Heidelbeerwasser and to make sweet, sauces and jams. For the rest, the phytotherapeutic use of this plant was virtually unknown to antiquity doctors-botanists. The same Mattioli in his “Discourses” mentioned it without mentioning any therapeutic properties of the plant: “… in Germany and Bohemia where no myrtle sprouts are born, they use most of the spitalials in their place a plant called by their blueberry … .this are the berries that are so in color and size, they are not dissimilar to those of the juniper, but full of vinous and tasty juices. These therefore in Germany together with the whole plant are used comfortably for the myrtle … .use some to dye yarn and blue card. Mangians still from the shepherds and many others like the wolves in Bohemia are publicly sold on the squares because they are not really ungrateful to taste. ”
Only in the following centuries the black cranberry was empirically used in popular medicine, especially as astringent, and Abate Kneipp saw it as “principled medicament”, whose properties have been confirmed by modern scientific research.
The current pharmacopoeia uses leaves and especially blueberry fruits, for the content in many active ingredients. In detail, the major constituents of the drug are anthocyanins, anthocyanins (0.5%); Other constituents are tannins, some organic acids including hydroxycinnamic acids and salicylic acid, various flavonolic and flavan-3-ol glycosides, iridoids, terpenes and pectins. Cranberry contains discrete amounts of organic acids (citric, malic, …), sugars, pectins, tannins, mirtilline (coloring glucoside), anthocyanin, vitamin A, and, in smaller amounts, vitamin B.
Cranberry anthocyanins are also used as natural dyes for food, labeled E 163. In fact, the cranberry fruit was used to dye blue-violet tissues.
Blackberry has a tonic-astringent, vasoprotective, hypoglycemic, antiseptic, diuretic, antimicrobial activity, with therapeutic use in mild forms of diabetes, dyspepsia, chronic and enteritis diarrhea, chronic venous insufficiency, capillary fragility, urinary tract and, in ophthalmology, in the therapy of myopics and reduced visual perceptions in twilight or night light, for which anthocyanins are particularly effective: their use is derived from the observation that during World War II, RAF pilots , consumers of large quantities of blueberry jam, showed a better night vision. In particular, the favorable properties of anthocyanins on the capillaries of the retina are emphasized, being able to protect the walls of the capillary vessels and to perform a beneficial action on microcirculation and vascular problems.
Its effectiveness has also been demonstrated in the treatment of urinary problems, such as cystitis and urethritis, and in maintenance therapy. The mother dye, suitably diluted in water, is found to be adequate in fighting bacteria such as Escherichia coli, preventing the bacterium from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract.
It should be remembered, however, that blackberry cuttings used in popular medicine against urinary tract infections at high doses and for prolonged use may cause chronic poisoning with anemia, jaundice, and cachexia.
The discovery of numerous black cranberry seeds among the piles of piles shows that this plant was already well-known by prehistoric men. In antiquity it was considered a symbol of hospitality and as such offered fresh or in the form of a drink, to travelers.
Fruits are used in the kitchen, fresh or frozen, for jams, syrups, jellies, juices, sauces, sweets and macedonias for grappas and liqueurs. The collection of fruits, regulated in various regions, is carried out by authorized pickers through the “comb”, a sort of small drawer, with long metal teeth that detach the fruit from the twigs.
Another species, Vaccinium corimbosum, of American origin, is cultivated for the largest and juicy berries, but less tasty than wild blueberries.

Preparation Method –
Among the various preparations you should remember that blueberry juice is a very easy drink to make in your home. Care should be taken, however, because these berries are usually indelible to soiling tissues and surfaces such as light-colored plastics. There are numerous varieties of these fruits that mature during the summer period: preferably fresh blueberries, harvested directly in areas not subject to pollution, are used. On the market, fresh fruits are larger than wild ones with often less intense flavors, or even frozen foods that are usually used to make sauces that accompany roasts. This juice can be consumed immediately after cooking or stored for a few months in a cool, dry place.
For the preparation of sterilized blueberry juice the jars: wash jars and taps under running water. At the bottom of a large pot, place a clean cloth, placed inside jars and caps. Spread the bowls between them with another jug. Fill pot and jars with plenty of cold water and put it on fire. Turn on and bring to a boil: water must boil for 30 minutes. Turn off the fire and let it cool completely. Extract the jars and taps, let them dry up on a clean cloth. Carefully wash the blueberries with running water, transfer them to a large casserole. Add abundant cold water: the surface of the water must exceed that of the cranberries of 4 cm. Cook on a slow fire with the lid for about 2 hours, checking frequently to make sure there is enough water in the pot. If necessary, add another water one glass at a time. Then using a small weed passaverdure, chop the cooked blueberries: the volume should be reduced by a quarter. Filter the flesh further through a narrow honeycomb pressing with the spoon of a spoon. You can also use a cotton or linen cloth that will fill your flesh and squeeze it carefully. Pour the liquid into the pot, bring to low boiling, stirring continuously. Add the sugar and let boil for about 2 minutes.
To preserve this juice for a long time, fill the jars with the still hot juice, tighten them tightly and place them in a large pot with bowls so that they can not break. Fill the pot with cold water and allow to boil for 20 minutes. Take care not to scald them, pull them out of the cooking water and allow them to cool down.
Another interesting preparation is homemade cranberry jam. Once you have picked the blueberries first, of course, clean the cranberries from any leaflets or impurities and wash them. Place them in a bowl and weigh them. For each kg of blueberries add 700 grams of sugar and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Make “blueberries” with sugar for an oranges stirring from time to time. In the meantime, wash the jars and lids you will use for the jam and sterilize them either in dishwasher or with the traditional boiling method. It is important to place the base of the pot and the jars in a clean kitchen jug so that when baking during boiling the jars will not break. Helping with pliers or anything else, take the jars out of boiling water and let them dry on a clean cloth. Pour the blueberries in a fairly large pot and turn on the flame, initially medium high.
From the first whiskey note, calculate 45-50 minutes. Mix it from time to time.
You will get an average dense compound and at this point, helping you with a ladle and a funnel pour the still hot mixture into the jars, close it firmly with the lid and put them “head down”, this will form the vacuum. Leave them this way until they are fully cooled.
Once cold, turn them over and label them.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. The Health of the Lord’s Pharmacy, Tips and Experiences with Medicinal Herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora d’Italia, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (eds.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
Caution: Pharmaceutical applications and surgical uses are indicated for information purposes only; they are not prescription-related in any way; Therefore, no liability is accepted for their use for any aesthetic or food purpose.




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