Blueberry

Blueberries on cereal. Blueberries with cream and sugar. Blueberries on vanilla ice cream. A handful of blueberries.

Try this: Place fresh, chilled blueberries in a merinque shell and top with whipped cream.

Blueberry season in the north stretches from early summer through late summer. (The season in the south is much shorter—late spring through early summer.)

Blueberries are native to North America. However, variations on the blueberry—the bilberry, is the chief example—grow in Europe and Asia. In all, there are nearly 150 varieties of blueberry and bilberry although not all of them are edible.

When it comes to fresh picking and eating, there are about 30 varieties of blueberry worthy of your attention. These can be divided into three categories: the lowbush, the highbush and the rabbiteye.

Lowbush blueberry varieties stand 15-46 centimeters (6-18 inches) tall and produce small berries with intense flavor. These blueberries grow wild from Minnesota to Maine and in the Maritime Provinces of Canada—Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. Not surprisingly, you will find these sold at the market as “wild blueberries.”

Rabbiteye blueberries are most common in the southern and southeastern states of the United States. These plants can grow to 1.8 meters (6 feet) tall and their harvest comes mostly during May and June.

Highbush blueberries are the most common blueberries. These are the large, plump and sweet berries with which you are most familiar.

Highbush blueberries grow from 0.9 to 1.8 meters (3 to 6 feet) tall and are grown where there is acid soil and where they can benefit from a chilly winter that brings on dormancy which, in turn, enhances growth and bloom in the spring. Great highbush blueberry country includes Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

When picking blueberries, choose berries that are firm, full-colored deep purple blue to blue black with slight silver frosting. Blueberries that are green or reddish in color are not ripe. Avoid overripe blueberries as well: they will be soft or watery, or the bottom of their baskets will be stained with juice.

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