A Bit About Blueberries
Blueberries are one of the most recently domesticated crops. Like all domesticated fruits and vegetables, blueberries originated in the wild. A native of North America, the wild blueberry (also known as the low-bush variety) does not grow anywhere else in the world. Up until 1911, the only way to enjoy blueberries was to know where a patch grew in the wild. We have Dr. Frederick Coville, a botanist that worked for the USDA to thank for bringing blueberries to the world.
To varying degrees of failure individuals had tried to bring blueberries down the mountains and cultivate them at home. When planted in loamy, nutrient rich soil the bushes did not fare well. Dr. Coville’s first breakthrough was the observation that wild blueberries grow best in ‘poor’ acidic soil. After figuring out this first step, his goal was to create a variety that could be cultivated. In the wild, blueberries replicate by sending out rhizomes (underground runners) that produce new bushes which are clones of the parent. This makes wild blueberry fields a genetic hodgepodge of unique plants. Colville discovered that by cross pollinating with a different blueberry variety, the bushes produced more fruit. He also discovered that blueberries benefit from cold weather. Finally, he figured out how to propagate, or grow new plants from cuttings. This is important because you could grow new plants from one variety.
In 1910 he published Experiments in Blueberry Culture which was the most complete writing on blueberries at the time. Elizabeth White of New Jersey read his book and wrote to him. Interested in creating a variety that could be cultivated on her family’s fruit farm, they became partners. White enlisted the help of the locals to bring wild bushes to use as parent-stock for Coville’s breeding program. Thanks to ‘the Father of the Blueberry’ and the ‘Blueberry Queen’ the first 15 commercial blueberry varieties were developed and many of the blueberries we grow today can be traced back to Coville’s breeding work.
Our pick your own Blueberry patch is full of fruit! If you haven’t yet made the trip out, we highly encourage you to do so in the next week or so.
Some of my favorite memories as a child are picking blueberries with my grandpa. There are some tangible lessons that come with picking berries, most I have only now come to appreciate as an adult. By patiently pick one bush at a time. By respecting the farmer and the plants by taking care to not damage, waste, or harm the bushes, berries or insects. To enjoy the fruits of your labor but only after putting a decent number of berries in your bucket first.
Whether you visit the farm regularly or make an annual trip to pick strawberries, blueberries or pumpkins we hope that Cedar Circle is home to cherished memories for your family. There’s nothing like picking berries perfectly ripe and warm from the sun.