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  • Writer's pictureAutumn Shultz

American Fruit: Blueberry

CULTIVARS CURRENTLY IN THE GARDEN:
  • Rabbiteye



Description of photo: Ripe and ripening blueberries on plant stem against a light green background.


HISTORY

Blueberries, native to North America, have been part of life here for 13,000 years. The first highbush blueberry bush was successfully cultivated in 1912, and today, we grow nearly 1 billion pounds of blueberries in North America each year. Before that, Native Americans used the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits in various medicinal preparations. Aside from being a tasty treat, blueberries had many uses throughout history! Blueberry juice used to be extracted and used to treat coughs. They also made for wonderful dyes and dry rubs!


Scientific name: Vaccinium

Flavor: Juicy, sweet, sour, tangy, tart

Uses: Cocktails, desserts, salad, juices, jams, jellies and more

Origin: Northeast America

Related: Cranberries, Bilberries, Huckleberries, Rhododendron, Azalea

Companions: Lilacs, azaleas, rhododendrons, strawberries, radishes, peppers, potatoes, etc.

Pests: Aphids, birds, Blueberry flea beetle, Blueberry gall midge, Blueberry gall midge, Blueberry tip borer, Gypsy moth, Obliquebanded leafroller

Pollinators: hummingbirds, bees, flies, ants, wasps, etc.


GROWTH & HARVEST

Three main types:

Highbush - bigger than low bush and more abundant, suitable for zones 4-7

Lowbush - also called the wild blueberry, producing small very sweet berries, suitable for zones 2-6 since fruits need winter chilling.

Rabbiteye - vigorous plants that sprout canes from base, longer flower-to-ripening than high bush, suitable for zones 7-10


  • Blueberries need full sun.

  • Blueberries require acidic soil.

  • Plant two or more varieties for successful pollination.

  • Plants won't have much fruit the first 2 to 3 years.

  • Harvest is bigger after 5 years.

  • Blueberry plants grow slowly and reach full size in 8 to 10 years.

  • Each winter, prune out old, weak and dead wood. Rabbiteye species are popular garden blueberries in Tennessee because they are easy to grow, heat-tolerant, can contend with drought and poor soil. Here is a great article concerning rabbit eyes.


BLUEBERRIES AS FOOD

Blueberries are a low-calorie super food. They may help lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease, improve memory, aid in exercise recovery, and more.


They are great for fresh snacking, but also excellent in smoothies, salads, frozen treats, yogurt, oatmeal and cereal, pancakes and crepes!



Recipe: CITRUS AND BLUEBERRY SALAD WITH LEMON VINAIGRETTE

Image and recipe by Share the Spice


Ingredients:  For the Dressing:

2 cloves garlic, minced

⅓ cup olive oil

¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste

½ teaspoon black pepper

2 teaspoon honey

2 teaspoon orange zest

For the Salad:

5 oz baby spring salad mix bag

1 cup walnuts

1 cup fresh blueberries

2 cups navel oranges, peeled and halved


Directions: Prepare the dressing by mixing the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt, black pepper, honey, and orange zest. Whisk until emulsified.

In a large bowl, add the baby spring mix, blueberries, oranges, walnuts. Toss well. Add pepper jack cheese pieces at the top.

Serve into individual salad plates and top with dressing!


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