||[Jul. 28th, 2010|10:04 am]
I've got nothing against blueberries. They're fine. It's just that they're a bit bland and unexciting. As this guy said on the radio the other day, they're "an easy listening fruit".|
It was in a programme all about berries. Apparently the industry talks about major berries and minor berries. Major berries would be strawberries and blueberries- possibly raspberries- and minor berries would be everything else. Apparently the only British supermarket that still stocks gooseberries is Booths.
Until quite recently blueberries were exotic. I'm sure I never saw them in the shops when I was a kid. Their success is down to their hardiness; easy to grow (in the right climate), easy to store and transport. Those blueberries in your local supermarket- that have elbowed the minor berries off the shelves- could well have been harvested a month ago. It suited the industry to sell us blueberries, so they marketed them to us as a health-giving superfood. Complete tosh, of course. They're not bad for us, but they're no better than any other fruit. Gah, what saps we are!
I regret the gooseberry. The gooseberry is a wonderful fruit. We had a gooseberry patch at the bottom of our garden. I remember picking them and "topping and tailing" them with a sharp knife and my mother or grandmother baking them into pies and crumbles. The taste is utterly distinctive and the acid makes your eyes water- but in a good way. I want them back. Please Mr Sainsbury, if you're listening, how about clearing the blueberries out of one just one little bin and filling it with gooseberries instead? You stock 'em, I'll buy 'em. Do we have a deal?
I can only assume you're getting the worst of the commercially-grown blueberries from America, which have sat far too long in a refrigerator compartment before they reach your stores. Decent blueberries are smallish and have a wonderful, rich, complex, sweet-tart flavor. Nothing like the bland blue mush you get in a big grocery store.
We get ours from the local farmer's market for the three or four weeks each year that the picking season here lasts, and mourn the fact that when we lived in Seattle we could get them for almost three months. We used to go to the farm with a friend in early September, as the season wound down, and buy 40-lb boxes for the winter. We'd haul our box home, open it, bag the berries up in quart bags and freeze them. It made about 24 to 26 bags, depending on how many berries we set aside to eat that week. The bags filled our freezer (a little one that was part of the fridge) to the very top, but we had blueberry cobbler and blueberry sauce and blueberry muffins and blueberry pie all winter long, October through February.
I miss living in blueberry country. *sigh*
Most of our blueberries are imported from the US and South America. There have been attempts to set up British blueberry farms, but I gather it's a tricky crop to manage in our climate.
Yep, it would be, and maybe in your soils also. Blueberries like lots of acid in the soil, and they like plenty of rain and a warm summer, but not hot (which is why our local season is so short; we get hot spells just as the harvest season comes on, which stops the plants' normal cycle of continued flowering), and a mild but not too cold winter. One of the best places to grow them is in a damp climate with lots of evergreen trees to lay down the soil acids, which is why Maine, western Washington, and western Oregon grow fabulous blueberries.
Oh, and I think there's a disease issue too with growing them in Britain, although I may be remembering wrong.
I think most of the English berries are being grown under cover. The farmer they interviewed said it wasn't easy.
Oh lordy no, it wouldn't be. Blueberry bushes look like four to five foot tall, sort of leggy and open elder bushes --- you can imagine the problems, I'm sure!
And I'd pictured them as ground cover- totally wrong.
Even the short ones are about waist high and each plant takes up about as much space as an old-fashioned bushel basket, so they need to be planted about four feet apart for maximum fruit production. Also to have a good five to six feet of head room, if under cover.