The blueberry is one of America’s native fruits and is second to strawberries in consumption. In the U.S., July is recognized as national blueberry month.
Canada and the U.S. are major blueberry producers. Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and Europe are also producing recognized crops.
- Most commercially-sold berries are harvested from “highbush” plants. A southern U.S. highbush species is called “Rabbiteye.” Lowbush (compact) plants are known as wild blueberries and produce smaller fruit. These are hardy enough to withstand arctic growing conditions.
- Numerous cultivars continue to be developed in attempts to improve on size, quality, and flavor.
- Blueberries are also available frozen, canned, dried, and are processed for inclusion in many packaged products.
- The U.S. growing season is April-October, but during July, the berries are most abundant. They are available year-round from other countries.
- The freshest blueberries are firm with a protective white “bloom” covering the skin.
- When selecting packaged fruits, inspect for liquid, which will indicate skins are broken and possibly moldy.
- Berries are graded according to size, ranging from small to extra large. A serving size is generally regarded as equal to one cup.
- Choose berries in the produce section from “dry” bins. Avoid those that are misted.
- Keep refrigerated and avoid condensation; the berries should last up to two weeks.
- To freeze, place unwashed fruits on a single layer. When frozen, place in plastic bags. They’ll remain good for about two years.
- To protect the tender skin, wash just before using.
- Frozen blueberries should be used for baking only and will not be good in fresh desserts. Do not thaw prior to using.
- Stir carefully when adding fresh fruit to batter to prevent damaging the skin. Dried berries work well for this reason.