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~Feel the Love for Our Native All-American Blueberry~

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4be94db200bBlueberries are one of seven native North American food plants grown on a large scale and cultivated commercially. Before I go any further, I should mention the other six:  concord grapes, cranberries, strawberries, corn, beans and squash.  This means these plants were in existence before any of our immigrant ancestors arrived in this new world and the Native Americans were eating them and creating their own uses for them long before they introduced them to the original Colonists.  That said, blueberries were domesticated entirely in the 20th century and it did not take long for this "very American berry" to gain the unconditional love of the entire world.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4be94cf200bThree types of blueberries supply over 90% of the market:  lowbush, highbush and rabbiteye.

Lowbush varieties (marketed as "wild blueberries" or "huckleberries") are very small, are harvested by machine and are sold almost exclusively to processing plants who make and sell blueberry products like "wild blueberry pie filling" or "wild blueberry preserves". While this sounds like they'd be at the top of the blueberry class, their flavor is actually disappointingly bland.

Highbush blueberries are the result of the hybridization of wild native plants. They are picked by hand and are sold fresh, representing over two-thirds of the total blueberries sold in our markets everywhere.

Rabbiteyes, which are native to the Southeastern United States were/are called rabbiteyes because the berries turn pink before they turn blue -- the eye color of a white rabbit. They are very similar to highbush blueberries, which are native to northeastern North America. Rabbiteye bushes get quite high, up to 20 feet, and, they bloom earlier in the year than the highbush, which sadly, makes them susceptible to Spring frosts.  Highbush are smaller than rabbiteyes and were called highbush simply because they were/are taller than low bush varieties.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4be94db200bHighbush blueberries are what we grow here in Central Pennsylvania's climate.  The berries are larger and plumper than rabbiteyes and the fruit is juicier with a thinner skin. Their quality is compromised very little by freezing them (which is great for me because, every year, I have a lot to freeze), while the rabbiteye berry skin tends to get tough when frozen.  Rabbiteyes, eaten out-of-hand are a bit sweeter, but in my opinion: highbush berries are truly the best variety for the best price.

When selecting blueberries, it is noteworthy that size is not an indication of flavor, shrinkage is. Always choose blueberries that are plump and look like they are ready to burst. Berries that have begun to shrink and wrinkle, while usable, will be less flavorful.  AND, no matter what variety you choose to use, be generous -- cooked blueberry anything should be bursting with berries.

~ PA-Dutch Blueberry & Lemon-Custard Streusel Pie ~:  

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49b15ee200d~ Love is a Blueberry, Lemon & Ricotta Pound Cake ~:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4be99fb200b~ Pucker Up for a Very Blueberry & Lemon Cobbler ~:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a49b51e6200d~ Love is Blueberry Oatmeal-Crumble Cookie Squares ~:

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4be9486200b"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyrigt 2022)


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