Know your Blueberry - Introduction
- Blueberries are flowering plants of the genus Vaccinium (a genus which also includes cranberries and bilberries) with dark-blue berries and is a perennial.
- The genus belongs to the Rhododendron family (Ericaceae).
Know your Blueberry - Main Types
- There are four main types of blueberries; highbush, lowbush, rabbiteye and the more recent southern highbush hybrid.
- Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
- These are the most widely cultivated and are suitable for temperate European regions.
- In the USA it is grown from the Mid-Atlantic to California, Oregon, and Washington, and from the Upper Midwest to the Mid-South.
- Highbush varieties are usually erect but sometimes prostrate shrubs varying in size from 10 centimetres (3.9 in) to 4 metres (160 in) tall.
- Lowbush (wild) blueberry (V. angustifolium)
- This species is adapted to the far North and is best suited to Scandinavian countries in Europe.
- In the USA it is commercially important in Maine, Eastern Canada, and parts of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
- Rabbiteye (V. ashei)
- This species is a large bush well-adapted to the south of Europe, Midle East and North Africa.
- In the USA, it is suitable for the South, in the region roughly south of Interstate 40.
Southern highbush blueberry
- Southern highbush (V. corymbosum x V. darrowi)
- This a new hybrid, and is adapted to the southern rabbiteye zone as well as the coastal South.
- It has a lower chilling-hours requirement, and it flowers and fruits earlier than highbush or rabbiteye varieties.
Know your Blueberry - Growing conditions
- Weather fluctuations and geographic seasonal advantage are the major economic considerations for type and variety selection.
- Blueberries are distinct among fruit crops in their soil and fertility requirements.
- As members of the Rhododendron family, blueberries require an acidic (low pH) soil, preferably in the 4.8 to 5.5 pH range.
- When soil pH is appreciably higher than 5.5, iron chlorosis often results; when soil pH drops below 4.8, the possibility of manganese toxicity arises. In either case, plants do not perform well.
Know your Blueberry - Botany
- The leaves can be either deciduous or evergreen, ovate to lanceolate, and 1–8 centimetres (0.39–3.1 in) long and 0.5–3.5 centimetres (0.20–1.4 in) broad.
- The flowers are bell-shaped, white, pale pink or red, sometimes tinged greenish.
- The fruit is a false berry 5–16 millimetres (0.20–0.63 in) diameter with a flared crown at the end; they are pale greenish at first, then reddish-purple, and finally blueish-purple when ripe.
Know your Blueberry - Taste
- They have a sweet taste when mature, with variable acidity.
- Blueberry bushes typically bear fruit in the middle of the growing season.
- Fruiting times are affected by local conditions such as altitude and latitude, so the height of the crop can vary from May to August depending upon these conditions.