It is blueberry time here in Charleston. The berries are just starting to ripen on the bushes, which means it is time to harvest!
As with every plant in the garden, selecting the appropriate variety for your growing conditions is key. In the Southeast, two favorite cultivars are the Rabbiteye and the Southern Highbush. I prefer the Southern Highbush because it is self-fertile and creates a fantastic hedge in the garden—ours stands about 6 feet in height and produces plenty of berries for our family and the birds.
Blueberry bush basics:
- They can live upwards of 25 years, with increasing yield as it ages.
- Blueberries prefer loose slightly, acidic soil that is well draining and rich in organics. That may seem a bit of a oxymoron because, generally, well draining soil depletes its nutrients rapidly. Amending or topdressing the plant with compost will help keep its nutritional requirements in check.
- Blueberries need full sun. Approximately 9 hours/day of full sun will do the trick.
- As with all berries, water is key because they have a high water content (which makes them plump and sweet). Although the Southern Highbush cultivar is mildly drought tolerant, for optimal fruit production supplement water may be needed if mother nature is not providing water 2 to 3 times a week during fruiting season.
Once your bush has been established for about 2 years, you will be rewarded with a low maintenance blueberry shrub. Yay! Here is a link for other varieties and care.
- Harvest when berries are blue and plump (these pictured above are not ready—they are still hard and white).
- Generally, the larger the berry the sweeter it tastes.
- Pick your blueberries at least once a week with the Southern Highbush variety. The fruit does not mature all at once so you will continue to have fresh berries over a period of time, rather than everything maturing at once. Another benefit of growing your own.
- Below is my favorite harvest bowl: ceramic Farmer’s Market bowls (available at Anthropologie). I like them because you can collect the berries, wash them, and then pop them in the fridge without transferring containers.
Take them to the table…
Salad idea: Fresh blueberries, Sungold cherry tomatoes, mixed greens, purple cauliflower for crunch, goji berries, almonds, sunflower seeds, and goat cheese, with a little local honey and seeded cracker.
Hors d'oeuvre idea: Blueberry crostini with fig infused honey
And freeze a few to chill a favorite cocktail.