- Blueberries are one of the few berries native to the United States and are relatives of the cranberry, lingonberry, and huckleberry.
- Currently there are thirteen different species of blueberries, the two that are most recognized are highbush and lowbush. The highbush berries are larger and most often grown for commercial crops. Lowbush berries are smaller and often synonymous with ‘wild’ blueberries.
- Blueberries are grown commercially in many regions of North America but mainly in the Pacific Northwest, the Southeast and Northeast United States.
- Washington and Oregon are the top blueberry-producing states.
- In the United States, blueberries are the second-most produced berry.
- Blueberries are full of antioxidant phytonutrients called anthocyanidins which are known to neutralize free radicals. They are also an excellent source of Vitamins C and K, manganese, copper, and fiber.
In the Berry Patch
- The blueberry is a shallow-rooted plant, and it thrives in soil that is acidic.
- Highbush blueberry plants usually require six to eight years to reach full production and range from 5 to 8 feet high at maturity.
- Once the plants flower, they need a large number of visits from bees or other pollinators for good fruit and seed set because they are not self-pollinating.
- Regions that get a lot of rain or cold weather during plant bloom, may see lower fruit set, due to reduced bee activity.
- After pollination and fruit set, the berry goes through three phases of growth:
- Cell division, where the berry increases in size but is still green.
- Embryo development, where the berry does not increase in size much.
- Cell expansion, where each cell increases in size.
- The development of pink and then blue color starts at the end of the second phase of berry growth. Sugars increase and acids decrease during phase three. Berry weight is dependent on cultivar, crop load, stage of development, and the number of seeds per berry. Berry firmness is mainly affected by cultivar.
- Blueberries develop a soft, hazy white coating which is known as the bloom. It is a natural protection for the berries from the sun and rain.
- Washington has one of the longest blueberry seasons in North America, typically running from June through October, and producing 40 percent fresh blueberries and 60 percent frozen blueberries enjoyed year around.