Blueberries are an excellent source of nutrition, easy to grow, easy to harvest, require minimum care and planned properly can supplement a bland diet to feed you for a couple of months in late spring/ early summer. Berries are also easy to can, easy to freeze (frozen are good forever) and can even be dehydrated.
The US and Canada currently account for 85% of blueberry production worldwide.
A great source of Vitamin C and K, important in pregnancy, especially for those who don't tolerate vitamins well. Blueberries are also packed with anti-oxidants of anthocyanins, polyphenols and various phytochemicals. High in fiber too so you may want to keep an eye on that. A cup weighs about 6 ounces. Power food.Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 240 kJ (57 kcal)
Carbohydrates 14.49 g
Sugars 9.96 g
Dietary fiber 2.4 g
Fat 0.33 g
Protein 0.74 g
Vitamins Quantity %DV†
Vitamin A equiv.
0% 32 μg
Vitamin A 54 IU
Thiamine (B1) 3% 0.037 mg
Riboflavin (B2) 3% 0.041 mg
Niacin (B3) 3% 0.418 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5) 2% 0.124 mg
Vitamin B6 4% 0.052 mg
Folate (B9) 2% 6 μg
Vitamin C 12% 9.7 mg
Vitamin E 4% 0.57 mg
Vitamin K 18% 19.3 μg
Minerals Quantity %DV†
Calcium 1% 6 mg
Iron 2% 0.28 mg
Magnesium 2% 6 mg
Manganese 16% 0.336 mg
Phosphorus 2% 12 mg
Potassium 2% 77 mg
To grow blueberries you will need soil that is high in acid with a PH from 4.5-5.5. In Eastern forests pine straw tends to make the soil acidic which why you often see them doing well in National Parks and Forrest along the AT. The soil at my current location is very clayey and not particularly high acid. It was easy to fix. I took my auger on my tractor and drilled large deep holes to loosen the soil to about 4' with a diameter of about 18". I then added about 50% peat moss (by volume) to the mix. Peat moss is inexpensive.
The holes were drilled in rows about eight feet apart with ten feet between the rows.
You can also grow them in containers although they will not get as large and the berries will mature faster. We keep two in containers for early berries.
[I have about a three acre bog on my land so if I ever needed more acidic soils without a purchase I could harvest it there.]
Once that was done I purchased at the local big box home center 10 blueberry plants of three different varieties. I planted them in a mostly sunny spot in the garden. I purchased three different varieties due to the different maturation rates. The idea here was to grow a large amount of blueberries through the season and have them fresh through the season with ample left over. The plants were in 1 gallon containers and about 9" high. And so it began.
That was the beginning six years ago. Every year after that I purchased and planted two new plants. For the first few years I poured about a pound of peat moss around each plant to make sure the soil was acidic enough. You can tell if the soil is not acidic enough as the plants will be yellow instead of green and they will not fruit.
For care I mow carefully around the plants and keep grass, weeds, and other invasive plants off and out of them. The berries will spread on their own so you need to be aware of what the plants look like and cut only invaders if you want them to spread. My intention was to get long rows of tall plants. The first year plants you are supposed to pick the unripe berries and throw them away to promote plant growth. This actually works really well. I did not do this the first year but did in subsequent plantings.
Deer take a nibble on the leaves every now and then but don't seem to like them and damage has been minimal. Other pests that will clean out my fruit trees if left unchecked or my garden such as rabbits and groundhogs show no interest. Other than rare sugar ants and fruit flies no bugs seem to bother them either.
Two years after planting I had to spend a good chunk of the summer away on family issues and by the end of the summer the garden was in bad shape. I did controlled burn in the spring then an unexpected wind storm came up and took out three of the mature plants. Everything else fared well.
This year the plants I planted in year one are all about 7'+ tall and have spread about 3' in every direction (with new plants and stalks coming up). They are now very close to touching. Each of the larger bushes provides about 3-4 gallons of berries per season. I expect them to get to be about ten feet tall at full maturity and eventually grow together as a solid row.
Picking is the most labor intensive task of berries. I always pick in morning when it is cooler and the berries have a coating of dew. They seem to be at peak moisture then. To pick lightly grasp the berry with two fingers and roll it. If it does not come right off it is not ripe yet. You can pick unripe berries if you want to and they will mature when put with other berries due to offgassing but they will be larger and better tasting if picked when mature. Berries start as a white, turn yellowish, then reddish, then purplish, till finally turning a nice blue. They will get darker if left on the vine until almost black but there is no need.
Berries that don't mature or are shriveled and not developed I throw in the blackberry vines to get rid of. This is about 1% of the berries or less.
This time of the year I pick 3-5 quarts a day with most berries coming from the oldest plants. What I don't eat fresh or use to cook with I put in a gallon zip lock bag and place in freezer. These can be pulled out for cooking and eating. Do not pull out a whole bag of frozen berries unless you are going to use the whole bag as it will turn in to stew quickly. I am not a big fan of canned or dehydrated berries so we don't prepare them in that way.
I eat about a pint a day fresh. From the local grocer this would be $5-8 a day. I also give away gallon bags to friends, coworkers and neighbors. Never had a single complaint and blueberries are very expensive in the market.