Blueberries are fruits produced by the shrubs of the same name. As the “blue” in the name implies, these small round berries have a very distinctive blue to purple color. This North American fruit can be used in a wide variety of ways in the kitchen, and during the late spring to early fall season, blueberries are often readily available at produce markets. Blueberries can also be grown at home, although there are some special requirements to keep in mind when growing blueberries.
Blueberries have a sweet, slightly tart flavor, and they are amply packed with vitamins C and K along with manganese and antioxidants, leading some people to label them as a “superfruit.” They vary in size from around the tip of a pinky to the tip of a thumb, depending on the cultivar. Once picked, blueberries keep for seven to 10 days under refrigeration, although they can also be frozen for future use.
Some people like to eat blueberries out of hand as a snack. These berries can also be added to fruit salads, eaten with yogurt and granola, sprinkled into cereals, and baked into pies. Some people like to make blueberry preserves, while others press the berries for their tart juice. Blueberries don't just have to be eaten with sweet foods. Blueberry jelly, for example, can accompany various roast meats as a condiment. Blueberries can also be added to quick breads, scones, muffins, and other baked goods.
Blueberry bushes mature very slowly, generally taking around six years to really start producing. They don't require much space, which can be an advantage in a small garden, but they do need highly acidic soil, and this sometimes poses a problem. In areas with naturally acidic soil, of course, blueberries will thrive, but in other cases, the soil needs to be regularly amended to keep it acidic, and it can sometimes cause problems for neighboring plants.
Blueberries are hardy in USDA zones two through six, and once established, they usually do very well, as long as the acidity of the soil is kept high. Some people like to screen blueberries with netting to keep birds away from the fruit as it develops, and in cooler zones, blueberries may need to be wrapped at night in the event of frost. Older bushes may require pruning in the winter while the plants are dormant to promote healthy, even growth.