Crops are great this year, all over - no late frost!
Blueberries are one of the easiest fruit to prepare and serve. There's no peeling, pitting, coring or cutting. They have few natural pests, (other than birds), so pesticides are generally unnecessary! This year's crop is fantastic (see related news story), thanks both to the weather and to more farms planting more blueberry bushes due to increased consumer demand over the past few years as more studies proclaim the anti-oxidant and other health properties of blueberries.
If you are looking for information about a similar berry, the saskatoon (also called the June berry or Serviceberry) see this page about saskatoons.
Select plump, full blueberries with a light gray-blue color. A berry with any hint of red isn't fully ripened. For a complete list of blueberry varieties, see this page.
First, it is key to know that once picked, blueberries will NOT become any sweeter, nor will the flavor improve. The only change that occurs is the color. They will APPEAR to ripen, but it is only a color change, from white to green to rose to red to pale blue to fully blue. So, white and green colored blueberries will not "ripen" after they are picked; while blueberries that have already turned purple, red or blue-ish usually DO change color after they are picked (if they are kept at room temperature to "ripen").
As the blueberries ripen ON THE BUSH, the flavor goes from tasteless to bitter to tasteless tart to tart blueberry flavor to sweet blueberry flavor.
Grocery stores sell blueberries that are tart, not sweet because they had them picked unripe by machine so they are very firm and can handled being bumped around in shipping. They may look good, but are not as tasty as those picked when actually ripe.
So, the key is, PICK ONLY RIPE BERRIES!
Since blueberries hang on the bushes in bunches a but like grapes do, the easiest and fastest way to pick them is hold your bucket under them in one hand and with your other hand, cup a ripe bunch and gently rub them with your fingers. The ripe berries will drop into your bucket, while the unripe ones will remain attached to the bush.
When the bushes are at peak, I can easily pick 2 gallons per hour (if I'm not being distracted by the kids and the sun isn't too hot!). A newbie might do 1 gallon per hour.and at the beginning or end of the season it takes more time as the berries are not as plentiful nor concentrated in clusters.
Keep in mind that blueberries vary considerably in density and moisture content, so these ranges are approximates.
1 gallon of blueberries weighs about 7.5 lbs or (4 liters of blueberries is about 3.5 kg)
1 pint of fresh blueberries weights about 3/4 of a pound. (1 liter of blueberries is about 700 grams)
1 pound of fresh blueberries is usually between about 2 and 3 cups of berries.
It takes about 4 cups (about of blueberries to make a blueberry pie (see this fantastic and easy blueberry pie recipe)
A normal batch of blueberry preserves, jam or jelly requires 5 pints of berries.
Blueberries do come in a variety of sizes from small (190-250 berries per cup) to extra large (<90 berries per cup).
As much as you may wish to drive out on summer Saturday to pick blueberries, not all areas can grow them commercially. 38 states grow blueberries commercially, but 10 of these states dominate and produce more than 98% of U.S. commercial production: California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington. British Columbia in Canada also produces highbush blueberries.
Here are the most recent statistics of the 13 largest blueberry growing states, in order, in 1000's of pounds of annual blueberry production (from the USDA)
While blueberries are native to North America, there are other very similar berries in other countries and even in North America. Here are some that are similar and can generally be substitutes in cooking, baking, pies, etc:
One serving size of fresh blueberries is equal to one cup, or 140 grams. This contains 80 calories, with no fat, cholesterol or sodium. One serving also contains 5 grams of dietary fiber, 19 grams of total carbohydrates, and 1 gram of protein.
Blueberry nutritional values, raw
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 60 kcal 240 kJ
|- Dietary fiber 2.4 g|
|Thiamin (Vit. B1) 0.04 mg||3%|
|Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.04 mg||3%|
|Niacin (Vit. B3) 0.42 mg||3%|
|Pantothenic acid (B5) 0.1 mg||2%|
|Vitamin B6 0.1 mg||8%|
|Vitamin C 10 mg||17%|
|Vitamin E 0.6 mg||4%|
|Calcium 6 mg||1%|
|Iron 0.3 mg||2%|
|Magnesium 6 mg||2%|
|Phosphorus 12 mg||2%|
|Potassium 77 mg||2%|
|Zinc 0.2 mg||2%|
|manganese 0.3 mg||20%|
|vitamin K 19 mcg||24%|
If you have trouble with blueberries settling to the bottom of muffins and blueberry breads, try one or more of these tips:
The US Highbush Blueberry Council hasn't updated their blueberry festivals page in 2 years, so I researched, added to, updated it, and put the current information on a new page - click here for the blueberry festivals page.
Q. How do I remove blueberry stains on clothes?
Rinse fresh stains immediately in cold water. Soak any more difficult stains in a solution of 1 Tbsp. vinegar in 1 quart (or 1 liter) of warm water.
Tide Laundry Detergent recommends soaking the stained article for up to 30 minutes in 1 gallon of water with 1/2 scoop dry Tide with Bleach or 1/2 measuring ladle of liquid Tide with bleach. in a plastic bucket. Keep the clothing submerged by placing a white towel on top of it. Discard the soaking solution prior to laundering.
Q. We would like to purchase some blueberry plants and plant them this November. Where can we purchase some nice size plants ?
A. There are 4 options:Being shallow rooted, blueberry bushes are constantly sending shoots off the side roots. These well started planted shoots can be dug with a generous portion of root and replanted. Just be sure: get plenty of root, mulch and fertilize annually and water sufficiently, especially the first year. Replant in late fall or early winter. Cut off about 1/3 of the shoot so the root system matches the top. Find a friend with a blueberry patch and help yourself!
1. Local nursery
2. Mail order
3. Big box store (Home Depot, Lowes, Wal-Mart)
4. Free shoots dug from a neighbors plants
I've been very disappointed with the blueberry bushes I ordered from mail order nurseries; the plants were tiny (6 inches or so). The ones at my local Wal-Mart usually looked pretty pathetic. In my experience, Lowes and Home Depot usually have big (2 ft tall) healthy plants that are suited to your local climate. Beware mislabeled plants - I've purchased plants from big box stores which were not the variety on the label, although that was peaches and apples, not blueberries.
The local nurseries often have nice stock, but my local nursery's prices were pretty high, unless I wait for an end of season sale.. I've been happy with the one's at Lowe's and Home Depot!
Q. My Mom always told me to put my freshly picked blueberries into a bowl of water. She said the ones that float have bugs in them or are bad. How can I tell if this is true?
A. That's just an old wives' tale. Some float because they are less dense, which may be due to a variety of causes, only rarely because a bug is inside. The only pest I've heard of getting inside a blueberry is the blueberry maggot, larvae of Spotted Wing Drosophila, which affects some plants in the north eastern US and parts of Canada.
Here are the methods to detect the presence of the pest in blueberries, according to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture
Methods for Detecting Blueberry Maggot Larvae in Blueberry Fruit
Hot Water Test
- Place 1 litre (2 pints) of berries in pot.
- Nearly cover the berries with water.
- Bring berries and water to a frothy boil and boil for at least 1 minute.
- Empty berries into a 4-mesh-per-inch screen.
- Gently crush berries in screen with the back of a spoon.
- Rinse berries with cold running water and collect water and solids in a pan with a black bottom.
- Allow the debris to settle and Decant floating solids and most of the water.
- Repeat washing and Decanting until water is clear.
- White maggots will be visible against the black bottom of the pan.
Brown Sugar Test
Sugar concentration = 2 lbs (1 kg) brown sugar per 1.2 gallons (5 litres) of water.
- Place 1 litre (2 pints) of berries in a 4-litre (1 gallon) container.
- Gently crush berries in container.
- Add sugar concentrate to 3 cm above crushed berries.
- Agitate crushed berries in sugar solution.
- Allow maggots to float to surface.
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