Blueberries are indigenous to North America and have deep roots in our country’s history. When Europeans arrived on the continent, the Native Americans were already enjoying blueberries year-round. They dried blueberries in the sun and added them whole to soups, stews and meat, or crushed them into a powder rubbed into meat as a preservative. According to legend, Native Americans gave blueberries to the pilgrims to help them make it through their first winter.
The Native Americans used blueberries (and their leaves and roots) for medicinal purposes, and developed one of the first blueberry baked goods, which they called Sautauthig (pronounced sawi-taw-teeg). This simple pudding made with blueberries, cracked corn (or samp) and water was a Native American favorite. Sautautig became popular among the settlers too; they added milk, butter and sugar to the recipe, and many historians believe it was part of the first Thanksgiving feast.
Across the Atlantic, the Europeans turned to close cousins of blueberries – called bilberries – for a variety of medicinal practices. They brewed bilberry roots into a tea to help women relax during childbirth, used bilberry syrup to treat coughs and associated the berries with good eyesight.