2014-08-14 / From The Garden

Blueberry Season is Here

By Cynthia Gibson


Do not wash fresh blueberries until ready to eat; excess moisture during storage will accelerate decay. Do not wash fresh blueberries until ready to eat; excess moisture during storage will accelerate decay. Although I consider Maine to be the home of blueberries, they grow abundantly throughout Rhode Island and are now available for sale and picking in many areas. Not only are the berries prime ingredients for a weekend family breakfast of blueberry pancakes, but both children and adults are big fans. With a mixture of tartness and sweetness, blueberries are bursting with wonderful summer taste.

The low-bush variety is named Vaccinium augustifolia. They provide the true essence of wild Maine blueberries and make a swell hedge. The tiny blue nuggets hold a ton of flavor.

Hybrids that you see in the supermarkets and in the pick-yourown fields are huge in size compared to the wild variety. Typically, they have a shelf life in the fridge of up to 30 days. Some of the lowbush strains have berries the size of buckshot, which motivated the need for hybridization, or so breeders thought.

It is amazing that so many growers believe that bigger is better in berries. Sometimes taste is compromised by size. Large hybrid selections that taste good are “Duke” for an early-season berry, “Cara’s Choice” for mid-season, and “Chandler” for late-season. If you are looking for a good-tasting, sweet, medium sized hybrid, Cara’s Choice is for you. Growers and snackers alike recognize all of these as winners.

Start your research this fall for the type of blueberry bushes you might like to plant next year. Spring is the best time for planting.

What has to be understood from the get-go is that blueberries are acid-loving plants. You can use Holly-Tone to fertilize or you can open a large bale of peat moss and plant the bush right in the center. You can also mulch your bushes with pine needles, but they will need a dose of acidic fertilizer twice a year, in early and late spring. Always water well after fertilizing, as the root system of blueberries is rather shallow and sensitive. The plants can be fussy, but have few diseases. The largest threat to the prized berries will be squirrels and birds. However, a good netting system will take care of that problem.


Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport. Visiting a pick-your-own farm could be a great mini-excursion this weekend. Take your own baggies, so the blueberries that you pick will already be in quart or sandwich-sized bags. This makes them easy to carry, pre-measured for any recipe, and ready to pop into the freezer should you bring home too many. Frozen berries are good for up to one year. Pick now and you will be glad you did in January, during a snowstorm, when you're enjoying Sunday pancakes or waffles with handpicked berries.

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