Have you ever read Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey? In the story, a mother takes her young child to hunt for blueberries. At the same time, a mother bear and her cub are also hunting blueberries. The two pairs meet with exciting consequences.
In real life, there are only a few places in the U.S. where one can go hunting for wild blueberries (or huckleberries, which are similar). Good thing the small, sweet blueberries are available year-round in the grocery store.
- Native Americans picked wild blueberries at least 13,000 years ago. These small, sweet berries are native to America.
- In the early 1900s, Elizabeth White, the daughter of a New Jersey farmer, decided to grow blueberries on the family farm. She teamed up with botanist Frederick Coville to develop new blueberry varieties. In 1916, their first crop of cultivated blueberries went to market.
- Blueberries are full of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. Scientists believe these berries can fight disease, prevent some kinds of cancer, and even build healthy brain function.
- Blueberries are the state fruit of New Jersey. Blueberries are planted in the White House kitchen garden.
- Today, blueberries are very popular. They are found in everything from snack foods to dog food.
- Blueberries grow on five continents. In the U.S., most of the blueberries that go to grocery stores grow in California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington.
- Highbush blueberries are the kind you find fresh in the grocery store. Lowbush blueberries are smaller and sweeter. They’re dried or used in syrups or muffin mixes.
- Botanist: a plant scientist
- Cultivate: to intentionally grow something
- Antioxidant: plant compound known for its health benefits
Questions and Answers
Question: Can I grow blueberries at home?
Answer: Blueberries need rich, acidic soil. They’re hard to grow in places with alkaline soil, such as the Rocky Mountains and Plains regions. They grow well in New England, the Pacific Northwest, and parts of the south, such as North Carolina. A different type of blueberry grows in the north than in the south.
Watch a video of blueberry harvesting in Maine.