The antioxidant properties of blueberries have been examined only in ripe fruit, although fruit of different maturities are used in processed food products. In this study, highbush blueberry cultivars Bergitta, Bluegold, and Nelson highbush blueberry fruit at different stages of ripeness were examined to characterize differences in oxygen radical absorbing capacity (ORAC) and the phenolic components responsible for ORAC. Underripe fruit at different stages of maturity were also stored at 20 °C for up to 8 days to assess changes in ORAC and phenolic content. Anthocyanin content was substantially higher in fruit of more advanced stages of ripeness. In contrast, the phenolic content and ORAC were lower in the riper fruit. Anthocyanins continued to form during storage, although rate of pigment formation declined after about 4 days. Less anthocyanin pigment was formed in the less ripe fruit. After 8 days of storage, the anthocyanin content of fruit harvested 5% to 50% or 50% to 95% blue exceeded that of ripe fruit. Up to 60% of the total phenolic content could be accounted for by anthocyanins. ORAC was positively correlated with total phenolic content (R2 = 0.78), but not with anthocyanin content.
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