Blueberries are one of the few fruits which are native to the Northeast.
Delicate and difficult to pick, these tiny fruits make up for all the effort with each berry burst of dark, sweet juice laced with hints of lemon. In the wild, blueberries come in two varieties: low and high bush.
Low Bush, Wild Maine Blueberries
Low bush plants cover the ground, and can’t be planted or farmed in similar ways as row crops, i.e., in rows. Spread primarily by rhizomes (underground runners), which give rise to new stems, plants generally grow where they please. The bushes are managed in a two year cycle – the plants bear fruit one year and for vegetative growth the other.
With 99% of wild blueberries destined for the frozen food isle August is a truly special month. Fresh berries are available for only a short time! Fresh berries require special care and must be harvested by hand to avoid bruising that is otherwise acceptable in frozen berries.
In 2017 Red Tomato partnered with Blue Sky Produce of Maine help solve the logistics connections in bringing Wild Maine Blueberries to the greater Boston area.
High Bush, Cultivated Blueberries
High bush bear larger fruit making them slightly easier to harvest. Available in markets the first week of July all blueberries are considered a nutritional super food. Blueberries contain high levels of cholesterol-lowering compounds, antioxidants, vitamin C, potassium, folate and dietary fiber. The first cultivated varieties were developed from wild high bush plants by the daughter of a New Jersey cranberry grower in the 1900s – their popularity has spread ever since!
Red Tomato works with Dzen Farms in Connecticut to source both strawberries and cultivated blueberries.
Today, many varieties of blueberries are available at market. Those that are bred only for size, however, lack any substantial acid and can be somewhat bland. For the best flavor, keep an eye out for small berries that are dark in color. While they might be time consuming to pick, blueberries are a dream to prepare. Simply spread out the berries in a single layer, remove the stems and/or any bruised fruits. Next, swirl the berries in a cold water bath, and spread to dry on a clean towel. Unwashed blueberries will keep in the refrigerator for 5-6 days and in the freezer for up to six months.