Produce of the month: Blueberry

Everything we learned about the blueberry in the last 120 years.

Produce of the month: Blueberry

History

You might be surprised to find that blueberries weren’t being grown commercially until the 1900s. Joseph White owned the largest cranberry farm in New Jersey, Whitesbog. He set up a company town, creating jobs for around 600 people during picking season.

Wanting to contribute to the family business, his daughter Elizabeth White cultivated the first batch of commercially distributed blueberries along with U.S.D.A. Botanist Dr. Fredrerick Coville. The scientific process required the team to monitor the freeze threshold, taste, size, and other factors of locally picked blueberries.

They sold the first crop of commercially viable blueberries in Whitesbog in 1916.

Fun facts

- Blueberry is one of the very few naturally blue foods.
- Blueberries are Canada’s most exported fruit.
- People have been eating blueberries for more than 13,000 years.
- Florida is the first state every year to bring blueberries to market.
- Yearly, blueberry consumption doubled between 2007 and 2012, from 0.5 to 1.2 pounds per person.

Have you spotted any of these diseases in your blueberries?

- Phytophthora Cinnamomi causes the leaves of plants to look drought-stressed. They may turn green, yellow, red, or purplish. Trees or plants often wilt and die rapidly with the season’s first warm weather. You may know it as “[root rot](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Root_rot),” “dieback,” or “ink disease.” It can survive in infected roots under adverse conditions for several years.
- Monilinia causes a blight on the leaves and blossoms in late May and early June. Fruit production losses from this disease can vary from a trace to very severe between years, fields, or even within a field.
- Botryosphaeria can be recognised in blueberries as ‘flagging. ‘Typically, affected stems do not drop their leaves, resulting in a brown-leafed ‘flag.’
-Botrytis cinerea causes infected flowers to take on a brown, water-soaked appearance, which can spread to the twigs. Unripe fruits shrivel and turn bluish-purple, while ripe berries are tan or pale brown. It is usually called “grey mold.”

We hope you learned something new about blueberries. If you are a blueberry farmer and know more than us, please don’t hold back on sharing!

August 1, 2022

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