Whether in a muffin, smoothie or jam, blueberries are the perfect addition to almost any spring recipe. With a flavor that ranges from sweet to sour, it is no surprise they are second only to strawberries as most popular fruit in the United States. Blueberries contain one of the highest antioxidant levels, protecting from damage to the cellular structure. Regular intake can lower blood pressure and support a healthy cardiovascular system. According to new research, blueberries may improve memory and possibly slow down age-related cognitive problems. They help to regulate blood sugar levels, which is especially helpful for individuals with type 2 diabetes. Blueberries contain various phytonutrients that work as anti-inflammatory compounds. From the heart to the brain, blueberries provide numerous benefits to our physical and mental health!
May through October is peak blueberry growing season in the U.S., so during these months they are usually cheaper in stores. However, some in-store blueberries contain high levels of pesticides; since the skin is consumed, organically grown blueberries are a better choice, but may cost a little more. To avoid higher costs for lower contamination, try growing blueberries yourself!
Here are some tips that can help you successfully grow your own blueberry shrub:
- Location: First select a sunny location. If you can’t find a ground location, raised beds or containers are a great option, especially for those with little yard.
- Soil: The soil must be moist, well aerated, high in humus (decomposed organic matter) and extremely acidic. At least three weeks before planning, test the soil’s pH, it needs to be between 4 and 5.5, if not, mix sulfur the season before. For mulch, try peat moss or wood chips and try to keep it 2-4 inches in depth.
- Water: Blueberries require a lot of water, about 1 to 2 inches weekly. Try deep watering rather than surface watering and avoid tap water if possible, and instead try for rainwater.
- Variety: To get bigger and a higher quantity of blueberries, plant at least two varieties together, ensuring cross-pollination.
- Pruning: To make your blueberry bushes last longer, pruning and mulching is key. You will not need to prune until the plants get fully formed, around the fourth year. Remove dead branches and interior crossed branches that block light.
- Picking and Storing: The blueberry is ready to be picked when it is deep blue. Each cluster may ripen at different times so frequent picking is necessary. Freezing is a great way to store blueberries because they do not lose their nutrients!