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National Blueberry Month

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Submitted by Rashaan Jeffery, Public Affairs Specialist

SAINT PAUL, MINN, JULY 19, 2022 - July is National Blueberry Month. July was first introduced as “Blueberry Month” through a joint resolution of the House and Senate on June 13, 1974. The joint resolution led President Richard Nixon’s call on Americans to “observe that month with appropriate ceremonies and activities.” A similar proclamation was made in 2005 by then-USDA Secretary Mike Johanns.

Commercialization of the blueberry began in 1916, when Elizabeth White collaborated with USDA botanist Frederick Coville to go against the norm and create a variety of wild blueberries to be sold on the market. Fast forward to now and blueberries have been commercialized in every continent except Antarctica.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Minnesota Blueberries

Minnesota has two native blueberries: common lowbush blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium) and velvet-leaf blueberries (V. myrtilloides). Both grow primarily in the northeastern half of the state, but they can be found growing from the furthest northwestern counties all the way to the southeastern corner of the state.

Habitat includes open, coniferous woodlands and sandy or rocky edges of coniferous and mixed-woods forests; sun-drenched hilltops and rocky ridges; forest clearings; and edges of footpaths. (Blueberries are very common along portages in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, where berry picking is also allowed.) They thrive in areas that have been scoured by fire, where picking can be phenomenal for the next few years. Blueberries ripen starting in mid- to late July, continuing through August.

Blueberry shrubs are 1 to 2½ feet tall and often grow in colonies. Leaves are shaped like an elongated football, typically 1 to 1½ inches long; they grow alternately on greenish-brown branches. Common lowbush blueberries have smooth leaves with fine teeth along the edges, while leaves of velvet-leaf blueberries are hairy and toothless. Fruits of both grow in clusters from branch tips. Underripe berries are green, becoming pinkish before ripening to deep blue with a whitish bloom; ripe berries look just like supermarket blueberries but are smaller—typically ¼ to 1/3 inch across. A key ID feature is the short five-pointed crown that is present on the top.

Ripe berries detach easily from the bush. Although you can use opened fingers to comb through a cluster of blueberries, you'll get less debris if you pluck individual fruits. Velvet-leaf blueberries are tarter than common lowbush blueberries, which are also called sweet lowbush blueberries. Both can be used like domestic blueberries, but because they're so small they pack together more closely—so you can use a smaller measure of wild blueberries in muffins or similar recipes. Wild blueberries make outstanding jam and pie.

The month of July is a time to reflect on how far the blueberry industry has progressed since 1916. For more information, check out the Blueberry Council’s 100-year history.

Also, don’t forget to support your local blueberry farmers. Click the link here to see where you can find blueberries in your area.

Additional Resources

Blueberries and Health Blueberries and Health : USDA Agricultural Research Service

Blueberries for the Prairie Blueberries for the prairie | Minnesota Fruit Research

Growing Blueberries in the Home Garden Growing blueberries in the home garden | UMN Extension

The Woman who Cultivated a Billion Dollar Industry