Hello. We're so glad you came to visit us here at the Blueberry site – it's a great place to hang out and we've lots to tell you. Firstly, we're cultivated berries but we do have some wild cousins that grow in parts of Canada, northern Europe as well as North America. But wild or cultivated we all have the same colour skin – dark navy-blue to blue-black. We're roundish, about the size of a marble, with a smooth skin covered in a fine, white powder or ‘bloom'. Our flesh is bluish and contains very small seeds. We were once known as ‘star-berries' because of the star-shaped calyx on the top of our heads. We're totally edible – seeds, calyx and all.
In Australia we're generally available all year round.
Did you know?
• We're one of nature's convenience foods because we need no peeling, hulling or pitting
• We've been around for thousands of years
• Australia now exports blueberries to Canada, Europe and Asia.
We're sold in small containers or punnets but not by type or variety.
Why Blueberries Are Good To Eat
• We provide you with some natural sugars for energy. The darker our colour, the sweeter we taste and the more of a treat we become.
• We're a good source of vitamin C
• We provide dietary fibre, although we have less than blackberries.
• 100g blueberries (half a punnet) has only 220kJ.
How They are Grown and Harvested
Our parent plants are perennial, deciduous bushes (this means they flower and fruit once a year and lose their leaves each autumn). However, some of the more uncommon varieties are evergreens, i.e. their leaves stay green all year round.
Blueberry bushes begin to bear fruit within 12 months after planting and can grow to over 7.5 metres but are generally pruned back to 1.5 – 2 metres to make picking easier. They require long periods of cool weather during the winter to allow the flower buds to develop properly, then in spring produce white or pink flowers from which berries form. We grow in clusters and ripen on the bush which takes between 60 to 120 days after the flowers have reached full bloom.
We're generally harvested by hand because we can be easily damaged. However, if we're to be used to make jams and cakes etc, we're usually picked by machines.
To pick the best of us select firm, plump berries that have a natural, light blue-silver blush on the skin. This silvery blush is a natural protective wax coating. Avoid excessively soft or withered berries.
How to Keep Blueberries
Place us unwashed in a single layer on paper towel on a plate. Cover and refrigerate. Use within 5 days.
Prime Growing Areas
History of Blueberries
There are many blueberry-type plants which grow naturally in the USA, Canada and Northern Europe. We began to be produced on a commercial scale in the USA around 1850.
In Australia we have only been grown commercially for the past 20 – 30 years. We were originally introduced into Australia in the 1950's when field trials with varieties imported from North America were conducted by the Victorian Department of Agriculture. However, there were so many disease problems in those early days that commercial cultivation wasn't viable.
So we grew unchecked on the Department's land until the mid 1970's when Ridley Bell, then an officer of the Department, saw the potential for us as a crop in the prevailing economic climate. There was, and still is, an export market for us in the Northern Hemisphere during their winter.
Fun Ways to Cook and Eat Blueberries
We're terrific to eat just as we are or in fruit salads, ice creams, pies, drinks, cakes, summer puddings, crepes, muffins, sorbets and even over your breakfast cereal. We can be poached, stewed or microwaved until tender.
Here are a few ideas you might like to try out:
Mix us into your favourite pikelet mixture. Serve topped with a spoonful of cottage cheese and extra blueberries.
Mix us with sliced rockmelon, celery, shallots and toasted pecan nuts. Serve on a bed of torn English spinach leaves. Mix natural yoghurt with some milk until smooth. Season with wholegrain mustard. Drizzle over salad with chopped parsley.
Stir us through sour cream sweetened with honey. Spoon into prepared pastry cases. Decorate with a sprig of mint.
Heat 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Boil for 3 minutes without stirring. Cool. Puree 250g blueberries with the sugar mixture. Stir in 250g whole berries. Serve chilled over waffles and ice cream.