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When are Blueberries in season ?
What good is summer salad without a healthy portion of Blueberries? In fact, in many homes in the United States, the humble Blueberry is a summer staple, in the form of smoothies, oatmeal toppers and muffins.
But come winter, you’d have to make do with dry and shriveled sorry excuses being peddled as the berry. Not only are they an insult to your taste buds, but they also lack the nutritional benefits that make the Blueberry, the most sought after fruit in the world.
Antioxidants? Not even half of what the fresher variety of the fruit contains.
In fact, according to a recent report, those tiny flecks of Blueberry that dots packaged goods like cereals and cereal bars may actually be fake. Guess what’s used to replicate the appearance and the taste of the berry? Some sugar, a little corn syrup and good old food coloring. Yikes!
Your best bet is to get your berries while they are still waiting to be plucked off the tree and stash them away deep in the depths of your freezer.
As surprising as it may seem, a lot of people are unaware about the ideal season to go Blueberry picking. When are Blueberries in season?
Let’s find out.
The Blueberry Harvest Season
Blueberries are grown in several countries around the world like Chile, Peru and Mexico. But more than 90% of the supply is homegrown in the United States where it is grown in more than 30 states. The plant itself is a Native American species that has been modified over the years to accentuate its desirable traits. (1)
Unlike a decade ago, today, we have a version of the fruit that is healthier, tastier and more resilient to disease.
There are many different varieties of Blueberry that are cultivated according to the geographical and climatic conditions prevalent. And, as a result, the harvest season for these plants also vary. (2)
Farmers categorize them as early-season, mid-season and late-season fruiting. Some farmers also grow a cross-section of the plant allowing them to extend the Blueberry season to all year long.
In many states like Florida, Georgia, California and North California, harvest season begins starts as early as February and lasts till the end of June. In the rest of the states, like North Carolina, Indiana, New Jersey, Michigan, Oregon and Washington, Blueberries are in season starting late May and lasting till the end of October.
Growing Blueberries At Home
The fact is that with a little bit of know-how and by selecting the appropriate variety that is apt for growing in your area, you can easily grow Blueberries for your personal use and for commercial applications also.
The most commonly grown Blueberry is the high bush Blueberry plant that grows between 5-7 feet and offers larger and tastier berries as compared to wild ones. The ideal season for these berries lasts from July to late August. (3)
Depending on the variety of Blueberry you choose, it needs some amount of time in dormancy at temperatures below 45 degrees to bear fruit. This length of time is called ‘The Chill Hours’. Blueberries grown in the US can be categorized largely into ones that need ‘Low Chill’ and the ones that need ‘High Chill’.
In areas that have a slightly warmer climate, the Low Chill varieties (Southern Highbush varieties like Emerald, Jewel and Jubilee) are ideal to grow. These are hybridized for better quality fruit, increased tolerance to heat in the Southeast region and low chill. These have very distinct characteristics (foliage) and are self-pollinizing. To get larger sized berries, it is recommended that you plant two different varieties together.
If you reside in the northeast, then you can grow the high chill varieties, which are more commonly grown in the US. There are almost 100 varieties of Blueberries to choose from and you can pick a combination that will continually bear fruit for 100 days at a stretch. However, these require a minimum of 800 chill hours in dormancy to fruit. Like the southern highbush, it is self-pollinizing and planting two different varieties together results in better fruit quality.
Blueberry Harvesting Techniques & Tips
When Blueberries are in season, harvesting can be a fun and enjoyable activity, provided you know a few basic things.
- Depending on whether you are picking blueberries from your home garden or you are picking the wild low bush variety, you may have to spend a few hours out in the sun. Ensure that you cover yourself adequately.
- Blueberries get their flavorful profile when they are left on the tree for at least 8-10 days after they first turn blue. Ensure that you pick only plump and full berries that are blue in color.
- Any berries with a hint of red are not ripened or ready for picking.
- Perfectly ripe berries will readily fall off the stem while picking. Unripe (white and green colored ones) berries will not ripen once picked. Whereas if they are already purple, red or blue-ish, they can be ripened at room temperature.
- Blueberries grow in a bunch similar to a bunch of grapes. The best way to pick them is to hold your basket under a bunch with one hand, cup the bunch with your other hand and rub them. The ripe ones will readily fall into the basket while the unripe ones will remain on the bunch itself. Allow it to ripen completely before picking.
- Once picked, the berries must be kept in the open to prevent it from getting moist and mushy.
- When correctly chilled, the berries can last the whole year without turning into rock hard unpalatable chunks that one normally finds. The trick is to dry the berries completely before storing them in sealed plastic bags.
That’s about it. So the next time you are enjoying that delicious Blueberry pie and are wondering when are blueberries in season, think about the possibility of growing this amazing fruit locally in your garden and the many benefits that come from it. Happy farming.