The Beautiful Blueberry!
Among other noteworthy events, the NJ Pine Barrens is home to the first cultivated highbush blueberry. Today, New Jersey, (specifically, the Pinelands of Atlantic and Burlington Counties) though diminuitive in size, remains the second-largest producer of blueberries nationwide, behind only Michigan. NJ's 52 million pound harvest comes from only 7,600 acres, and Michigan's 83 million pound harvest comes from 16,700 acres. When one considers that that 80% of Jersey's blueberries come from Atlantic County (Hammonton area), it's easy to see why Hammonton is the "Blueberry Capital of the World!" (2006 statistics from USDA/NASS)
Centuries before the arrival of the colonists, Native Americans gathered blueberries from the forests and the bogs. They were consumed fresh and also preserved. The Northeast Native American tribes revered blueberries and folklore developed around them. The blossom end of each berry, the calyx, forms the shape of a perfect five-pointed star; the elders of the tribe would tell of how the Great Spirit sent "star berries" to relieve the children's hunger during famines
Blueberries were also used for medicinal purposes along with the leaves and roots. A tea made from the leaves of the plant was thought to be good for the blood. Blueberry juice was used to treat coughs. The juice also made an excellent dye for baskets and cloth. In food preparation, dried blueberries were added to stews, soups and meats. The dried berries were also crushed into a powder and rubbed into meat for flavor. A beef jerky called Sautauthig (pronounced saw'-taw-teeg), was made with dried blueberries and meat and was consumed year round.
During the seventeenth century, settlers from England arrived in the New World. Immediately, they set about clearing the land and establishing farms, for they could not rely solely on supplies from England. But the land and the climate were far different from what they left behind. Many early attempts at farming failed. In the winter of 1620, the Pilgrims established a settlement at Plymouth. Many perished during the first few months, but those that survived went on to build homes and establish farms. Their neighbors, the Wampanoag Indians, taught the settlers new skills that helped them survive. They showed them how to plant corn and how to gather and use native plants to supplement their food supply. One important native crop was blueberries!! The colonists learned from Native Americans how to gather blueberries, dry them under the summer's sun and store them for the winter. In time, blueberries became an important food source and were preserved, and later canned.
A beverage made with blueberries was an important staple for Civil War Soldiers. In the 1880's, a blueberry canning industry began in the Northeast USA.
Blueberries are one of the most popular of the berries. They can be eaten fresh or baked into pies, muffins, and other treats. They can be dried, canned, or frozen for use throughout the winter. These vigorous growing plants, which don't require severe pruning, are quite resistant to pests and diseases. The only thing these plants are very particular about is the soil's pH, which should be around 4.0 to 5.5.This is the reason they flourish in NJ's Pine Barrens! There are three main types of Blueberries: lowbush, highbush, and rabbiteye. Highbush Blueberries produce an abundance of large, sweet fruits and are found in wetlands and drier upland wooded slopes from Nova Scotia west to Wisconsin, south to Georgia and Alabama. In the wild, these bushes can reach a height ranging from 5 to 15 feet; in the garden, their height ranges from 6 to 12 feet. Lowbush Blueberries produce tons of small berries with intense flavor. A single plant usually produces 1 to 2 pints of berries. These Blueberries are very cold hardy, surviving in the wild as far north as Arctic North America. They only reach a height of 1 or 2 feet. Rabbiteye Blueberries are excellent for growing in mild-winter regions including the Atlantic coast and coastal Alaska. These tall (from 10 to 25 feet) bushes flourish where summers are hot and humid and they tolerate dry periods better than other Blueberries.
An important step in the development of the highbush blueberry industry came in the turn of the century. Efforts in the early 1900's by Elizabeth White and Dr. Frederick Coville to domesticate the wild highbush blueberry resulted in today's cultivated highbush blueberry industry. They selected desirable plants from the wild forests of the Northeast USA and cultivated them to develop blueberries that could be commercially grown by farmers. Their initial breeding work has resulted in the plump, juicy, sweet and easy to pick cultivated blueberry we enjoy so much. Without this cultivation work we would not have fresh blueberries in the marketplace as we do today. White's leading six varieties are the Rubel, Harding, Sam, Grover, Adams and Dunphy. These plants were named after the men who searched out and found the bushes with the largest berries. White would pay them for their time and efforts, along with the honor of naming the bush.
North America is the world's leading blueberry producer, accounting for nearly 90% of world production at the present time. The North American harvest runs from mid-April through early October, with peak harvest in July which is also known as National Blueberry Month.
Although some processed blueberries are hand picked, a majority are mechanically harvested with specially designed blueberry harvesters. There are several varieties, but for the most part the concept is simple: A machine is driven or towed through the field and mechanical rods shake the plants to drop the blueberries into buckets or conveyors. The machines must go through the field art different times as blueberries do not ripen at the same time. Bins of harvested blueberries are rushed to nearby processing plants where they are dedicated to different market channels.
B & B Farms - 250 S. Mannheim Avenue, Egg Harbor City, NJ 08215. Phone: 609-965-5558. Directions: Located on Mannheim Ave. 1 and 1/4 mile off Route 30. If coming north on Garden State Parkway - get off exit 46. Take left on Jimmie Leeds Road to Duerer St. Take right on Duerer. Tune right on Mannheim - second driveway on right. B & B Farm sign at driveway. From north, exit 44, take Pomona Rd. South, then right on Rt. 561, then right on Mannheim. Open: Monday thru Sunday, 8 am to 4:00 pm, berries and weather permitting. Call first! Blueberries available Mid-June thru Late July.
Lindsay's Pick Your Own Blueberries - Pleasant Mills Road, Hammonton, NJ 08037. Phone: 609-561-2474. Directions: Route 30 to Hammonton, east on 542 (Pleasant Mills Road) 1 mile on right. Crops are usually available in June, July, August. Open: Daily, 8 am to 7 pm Mid June to Mid August We follow organic methods, but are not yet certified.
DiMeo Fruit Farms and Organic Berry Plant Nursery/Pick Your Own Organic Blueberries, 3101 Nesco Road, Hammonton NJ. 609-561-5905. Open 7 days, weather and berries permitting; please call ahead. Blueberries available mid-June through August.
Conte Farms - 299 Flyatt Road, Tabernacle, NJ 08088. Phone: 609-268-1010. Open: Monday thru Sunday 7am to 6 pm Pick Your Own Blueberries available July 1 thru July 30, but please call ahead.
North Branch Blueberries - Pick Your Own: Blueberries. Route 70 & North Branch Road, Browns Mills, NJ. Directions: Route 70, 5 miles E of Four Mile Circle at Mile Market 31, turn onto North Branch Road Phone: (609) 893-5693. Open: Daily, July, 8 am to 5 PM. Also Available: Blueberry honey.
Piper Blueberry Farm - Pick Your Own: Blueberries. Magnolia Road, Pemberton, NJ 08068. Phone: (609) 894-4287 or (609) 894-9227. Directions: Route 38 E to Pemberton, Bear Right at 2nd light, approx 3 miles on Right (White Building) Open Monday to Saturday 8 am to 5 pm, closed Sun.
Manahawkin Pick Your Own Berry Farm - 178 Beachview Avenue, Manahawkin, NJ. Phone: (609) 597-3437. Directions: From Route 72, take Route 9 north about 2 miles, left onto Beachview Avenue, 1/2 mile on right side. Open: June 1 - Oct. 31, daily, 9:00 am to 5 pm every day except Wednesday (closed Wednesday). Call for more info.
Emery's Berry Farm - ORGANIC, Heritage blueberries June - Aug. 346 Long Swamp Road, New Egypt, NJ. Phone: (609) 758-8514. Directions: Off Route 539. Open: 9 am to 4 pm. In addition to
Blueberry Fun Facts!
Blueberries are one of the few truly blue foods on earth.
Blueberries are one of the few fruits native to North America.
Blueberries are part of the Vacinnium Species of plants which have a relative that grows on the slopes of Hawaiian Volcanoes!
North America is the #1 exporter of blueberries.
Blueberries and Health
Blueberries and Nutrition:
Though blueberries themselves are not a cure-all, they contain a number of substances which are thought to have health benefits. These substances include, but are not limited to fructose, fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Antioxidants thus far, seem to have the most conclusive role in the prevention/ delaying of such diseases as cancer, heart disease and the aging process however, a limited number of studies, especially long term and on human beings, are not available at this time.
One cup of blueberries contains 14% DV of fiber 2.41 g per 100g Blueberries are a source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, phenolics, and flavonoids Blueberries are very low in fat and sodium
Blueberries as Antioxidants:
Antioxidants are thought to help protect the body against the damaging effects of free radicals and the chronic diseases associated with the aging process. Blueberries contain many of these naturally occurring antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E,containing 14 mg of Vitamin C and 0.8 mg Vitamin E per 1 cup of blueberries. In addition, blueberries contain anthocyanins and phenolics that can also act as antioxidants. Based on data from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (Boston, MA), blueberries are among the fruits with the highest antioxidant activity. Using a test called ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity), researchers have shown that a serving of fresh blueberries provides more antioxidant activity than many other fresh fruits and vegetables.
Blueberries and Aging:
In a USDA Human Nutrition Research Center laboratory, scientists discovered that feeding blueberries to laboratory mice slowed age-related loss in their mental capacity, a finding that has important implications for humans. Blueberry-fed mice performed better than their control group counterparts in motor behavioral learning and memory.
Researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey have identified compounds in blueberries called proanthocyanidins that promote urinary tract health and reduce the risk of infection by preventing bacteria from adhering to the cells that line the walls of the urinary tract.
Super Delicious Chatsworth NJ Blueberry Muffins
6 T butter softened
Grease muffin tins or use paper liners. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together flour, baking power and salt...set aside. Cream butter and sugar together, mixing well. Add eggs. Add dry ingredients alternating with the milk, to the creamed mixture. Quickly fold in the blueberries and fill muffin 2/3 full. Sprinkle topping mixture of 3 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1 tsp allspice. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover with clean towel for 10 minutes.
Contributed by Deborah Grove, Chatsworth NJ
BLUEBERRY CRUNCH (My personal favorite, and sooo easy! Don't let the mayo throw you off; it's delicious)
The "crunch" is so good that you can double the recipe for it!
BLUEBERRY CREAM PIE
Baked 9" pie shell or baked crumb crust
Prepare pudding as label directs, using 1 1/2 cups milk; add butter, extract. Pour into bowl. Cover pudding surface with wax paper to prevent hard skin from forming. Chill. Beat until smooth with mixing spoon. Fold in whipped cream. Fill pie shell. Add Blueberry Topping. In saucepan, place 1 scant cup of blueberries. Add cornstarch combined with sugar, lemon rind and juice. Cook over low heat, mashing & stirring, until mixture thickens & turns clear. Add the remaining whole blueberries; cool slightly. Carefully spoon the mixture over the cream filling in pie shell. Refrigerate until served. (Yummy)
Contributed by Arlene McAdams, Waretown, NJ
BLUEBERRY KUCHEN (tart)
Use a 9" spring form pan
1 cup plus 2 Tbs. Flour
CRUST: Combine 1 c. flour and 2 Tbs. Sugar,
cut in butter to make uniform crumbs. Add vinegar, salt; blend smooth.
Press into bottom and about 1 inch up the sides of 9" spring form pan.
Submitted by Arlene McAdams, Waretown NJ
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
Sift flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar
together into bowl.
Blueberry No-Bake Pie
Place water and cornstarch in pan. Bring to boil stirring mixture. Sprinkle flavored gelatin over boiled cornstarch-water and stir to dissolve. Fold in frozen blueberries and spoon into pie crust; cover and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours. To serve, top pie pieces with a dollop of whipped cream.
2 oz. Stoli
2 cups fresh
blueberries, lightly sugared
Preheat oven to 375'.
Using extra mayo, lightly grease bottom of 9" baking dish, then place sugared blueberries in dish.
In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar and cinnamon, then stir in mayonnaise. Using fingers, scrunch mixture to form crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over blueberries.
Bake 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or home made whipped cream!
Blueberry Dumplings (courtesy of Crystal Brandt)
Every year during blueberry season my mom would make this for us.... it was always our favorite!!! 1 container of blueberry's 1/4 cup of sugar about 1.5 cups of water let it cook down for about 15 minutes then add dumplings (biscuick and milk - recipe on box) cook until the bisquick looks done (about 15 minutes)
Blueberry Drink Syrup for Blueberry Iced Tea (courtesy of Claire Demetroules)
4 cups fresh
blueberries or frozen, rinsed and drained
Place blueberries in a saucepan with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Set sieve or colander lined with cheesecloth (you can use a thick paper towel) over a bowl and pour in the blueberry mixture. Gently press out the juice with a spoon or by twisting the cheesecloth. Discard the pulp and measure the juice into saucepan. Add 1/2 cup sugar for each cup of juice and cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes. Add lemon juice, Chill and pour into covered jar. Store in refrigerator. Add two tablespoons to each glass of prepared iced tea. Stir well and garnish with a lemon slice.
Blueberry Smoothie (courtesy of Tony Risos)
1 1/2 Cups
Blend all ingredients in a blender and enjoy!
More recipies can be found on the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council's website.
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