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Did you know that in July of 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture proclaimed July National Blueberry Month? So here are a few interesting tidbits about one of my favorite things.
Blueberries belong to the family Vaccinium—this makes them related to cranberries. As a matter of fact, Blueberries and cranberries are one of only a few commercial food crops native to North America!
The silvery/whitish film found on blueberries is called a “bloom.” It helps to protect the fruit. Don’t wash blueberries until just before you plan to eat them. They’ll last longer.
Native Americans called them “Star Berries” because of the shape of the flowers. They believe they were a gift from the Great Spirit to relieve their children’s hunger during famines.
The United States is the world’s largest producer of blueberries, producing more than twice as much as the next closest country which is Canada. 98% of U.S. blueberries are grown in just 10 states—California, Florida, Georgia, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. As a matter of fact, a town in New Jersey called Hammonton calls itself the Blueberry Capital of the World and has a big festival every year that attracts thousands of people.
Blueberries only contain 80 calories per cup. Plus, they contain an important phytonutrient called anthocyanin which is a powerful antioxidant. It’s the anthocyanin that gives them their blue color. They are considered a “super” food—aiding in heart and bone health, lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, cancer prevention, preventing age-related mental decline, and boosting your immune system.
And they’re easy to grow—if you understand their basic requirements. First blueberries need acidic soil—preferring a pH of 4.5 so get your soil tested!
They don’t like wet feet, but are very shallow rooted so can’t go but so dry either. While they need at least six hours of sunlight to produce well, they can tolerate some late afternoon shade.
Blueberries also adapt well to container growing and can easily thrive on a deck or patio. They are partially self-pollinating, but you’ll get a greater yield if you plant two different varieties that bloom around the same time.
I’m going to celebrate National Blueberry Month by taking home blueberries from our Farmers Market (every Thursday from 10 am until 2 pm in the parking lot here at The Great Big Greenhouse).
Of course, you could go pick your own. To find a spot near you go to pickyourown.org. Otherwise, look me up at our Farmers Market and I’ll show you fresh, local, Virginia-grown blueberries!