Many botanists believe blueberry predecessor plants could be the most ancient fruit plants on earth. Put some in your cereal bowl for a 13,000 years old healthy treat. The extended blueberry family includes countless permutations throughout the world. From land cover varieties that grow close to the ground to vigorously growing upright plants. Every growing zone and climate has its own native species. The bilberries, whortleberries and hurtleberries are a vast global family although the true blueberry is actually native only to the Americas. Many modern varieties have been hybridized from the wild American varieties and have become a popular healthy fruit. The United States in 2006 accounted for 90 percent of the world’s commercial crop. They are now being grown and marketed all over the world.
The Native American Indian held blueberries in high regard. They harvested them and considered them a gift from God to be preserved and used throughout the year. Native American Indians enjoyed this fruit fresh, dried, smoked, and pounded into venison to make an early version of blueberry flavored jerky called sautauthig. They also made tea from the blueberry leaves used it as what they thought was a purifier of blood.
Varieties of blueberries in general
There are three basic types of true blueberry plants grown in America highbush, lowbush, and rabbiteye. Highbush as the name implies grow tall and erect, lowbush are ground hugging crawlers, and rabbiteyes are also erect bushes.
One of the main factors as defined by its seasonal home is the plants seasonal requirement cool dormancy time between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Their growing zones in an over simplistic way can be divided as follows:
The lowbush are adapted from Canada through Maine.
The highbush types from new England down to the Carolinas and
The rabbiteyes from the Carolinas down through Florida.
High bush are self pollinating and require no other plant for cross-fertilization. Although they produce better when cross-pollinated. Rabbiteye and lowbush both are not self pollinating and require cross-pollination to set fruit.
A new hybrid which is a cross between the highbush and the rabbiteye has been developed called the southern highbush. It differs from the northern highbush in requiring much lees chilling time. It generally needs cross-pollination.
Specific varieties to consider growing
I will now recommend to you an heirloom variety of northern variety discovered in 1911 called the Rubel. It is self fruiting and adaptable to growing in zones 4 through 7. It has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any blueberry. Because of its flavor and suitability to be used in pastries it is still a very popular variety. It has been used as a parent of some of the popular commercial varieties that have been developed. Rubel is truthfully the reigning “emperor” of health foods, Rubel is an outstanding consistent producer. HARDINESS ZONE – 4 to 7
Jersey – This is a northern high-bush plant with a mid-season ripening time. This plant is self-pollinating, The berries are small, but known for having the best flavor of all. These berries have a long shelf life. Jersey is the most popular variety in Michigan and other northern states. HARDINESS ZONE – 4 to 8
Sunshine blue leads the list of southern varieties with outstanding attributes. It is a semi-dwarf plant that grows 3 o 4 feet tall. It is semi evergreen with extremely vivacious hot pink flowers and can produce up to 10 pounds of blueberries each season. It is a perfect plant to grow in a container on the patio or in the landscape. It has a low chilling requirement of only 300 hours and is more tolerant of elevated pH than most varieties. It grows in zones 5 to 10.
Ozarkblue – This is a Central-southern High bush type with Late Mid Season ripening time, Chilling requirements will be approximately 400 hours. Yields are consistently high at 15 pounds per plant, Quality of fruit is excellent and the Shelf life of the fruits is superior; Flavor is sweet to sub acid, which means high flavor. The cultivar escapes late freeze damage unlike other low chill high-bush cultivars. Only partially self-fertile, for highest yields rows should be alternated with another variety HARDINESS ZONE 5 to 9.
Purchase your plants from a reputable nursery
Choose blueberries that were grown without pesticides to avoid the possibility of getting blueberries that may contain pesticides and ingesting pesticides. You can grow your own in your yard or in containers on your patio to insure your blueberries are pesticide free. You can freeze blueberries you grow and have them for year around use. In addition growing your own can be enjoyable as well as rewarding. You can purchase your plants free of pesticides from a reputable nursery.