Nature’s Candy: Growing + Eating Blueberries
Blueberries are easy to grow, taste fabulous, and are even good for you! If you have just a bit of space and some sun, blueberries are fun to grow and really are nature’s candy.
Love blueberries? Then gobble them up! Blueberries are low on the glycemic index, which means that even though they contain sugar, the overall impact on our bodies’ blood sugar level is minimal. They are full of antioxidants and studies show that they help improve memory.
Still, probably the main reason blueberries are so good for us, is because they contain anthocyanins, the antioxidant flavanoids responsible for their rich blue color. Anthocyanins are known to help with a myriad of health issues such as improving heart health by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing inflammation, and cancer prevention.
Blueberries are simple to grow. The biggest issues you may face when growing blueberries are the soil needs (pH around 5.0), proper drainage and using netting to keep the birds away:
- Blueberries are acid loving plants. Bluberries grow well in the Pacific Northwest because the high rainfall levels add additional acidity to the soil (remember those acid rain warnings of long ago?). In other areas, you may want to have your soil tested to find out the pH level and adjust it to near 5.0 for ideal blueberry production. This can easily be accomplished with garden sulfur mixed into your soil.
- Blueberry bushes prefer well-drained soil as they have a shallow root system and consistently wet soil could cause root rot.
- It’s no surprise that everyone including the birds love blueberries. Somehow they know the second the berries turn from green to blue and will eat them all if you don’t protect your plants with netting. Tightly woven netting which can be purchased at any garden center will help keep the birds away so you have time to harvest the sweet berries for yourself.
Most blueberry plants (but not all) are self-pollinating so if you have a small space then you can find a variety that will fruit with just one plant. Others require that you plant two of the same type. Look for plants cultivated for your climate; some thrive in very cold northern areas and some that work better in the south. Blueberries make the perfect fruit plant for a balcony or patio! Due to their relatively shallow root system, you can successfully grow blueberries in containers. Some nurseries even sell dwarf varieties bred for container gardening.
Harvest the berries when they turn blue all the way around and can be easily removed from the bush. Be patient. Like many fruit plants it may take a while to have a full crop of berries. Store them simply by freezing as they are off the bush. Some choose to wash and dry them, but this will remove the protective bloom (the waxy, grey coating that covers the berry) and they will spoil faster. The bloom is tasteless and natures way of protecting the berries so they last longer!
Blueberries make a great snack any time of the day just by themselves. They are also a great add-in to cereals and salads. Blueberry jam condenses the flavor and makes wonderful presents for your family and friends.
Mini Blueberry Crisps in Mason Jars
makes 6 x 4oz jars
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Wash and dry blueberries.
3. Place berries into the Mason jars to the very top as they will shrink when cooked.
4. In a mixing bowl combine the oats, cinnamon, salt and flour.
5. Pour the melted butter into the oats mixture and stir well.
6. Carefully mound a spoonful of the oat mixture on the blueberries.
7. Place jars in a baking tray and bake for 35 minutes.
8. Remove from oven and let cool.
9. Serve as is, or with a little scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.
About the Author
Patti Estep is a mom tending to two daughters who are blooming quite nicely. She loves gardening, decorating and entertaining at her home in Pennsylvania. “I love the four seasons. Each changing season brings new inspiration and fresh ideas.” When she is not working on a project at home or searching for treasures at nurseries and garden shops with her girlfriends, you’ll probably find her with family and friends at a restaurant or home party enjoying new and different food adventures. See what she’s up to at Garden Matter.