April 25, 2013

Blueberry Jam and Jelly Beans

I'm in a jam. I have too many blueberry bushes.

There are the four I planted several years ago that are half high (Vaccinium corymbosum 'Northblue').

They are self fertile, and produce a good crop, although only briefly in July, and the fruits are a little tart. Fall color was good, and generally these are pretty plants sitting out there in the sunshine, not too big for the space and kind of woodsy looking.
In summer four Vaccinium 'Northblue' are between the rosemary on the left
and the wine colored redbud on the right.

Then I added a very little one, called 'Northcountry', that stays quite dwarf.
Vaccinium corymbosum 'Northcountry' in a pot on the patio in fall.
Later I planted it out in the garden.

With five bushes I had enough blueberries for ornamental interest, and for my breakfast cereal for a short time in summer. I leave one for the birds, but put a net over the others.

This spring I added two dwarf blueberries to keep in pots on the deck.
Vaccinium corymbosum 'Jelly Bean'

Why more blueberries? Because these were named 'Jelly Bean'.

I am a marketer's dream --- if you call a little blueberry bush 'Jelly Bean' I will buy it. The fruits are supposed to be very sweet, like jam, and that will be nice, since my 'Northblue' shrubs produce tart berries.

Blueberry jam in the raw! Jelly berries!

So far so good -- more than enough blueberries for my needs now.

But then I got six native highbush blueberry shrubs last week. I ordered three from our conservation district plant sale, and thought I'd put them out in the meadow for the birds. They will be tall shrubs, with red color in the fall that I thought would be pretty in front of the native forest I am creating out there. I don't need the fruit, I just wanted the wildlife-friendly woodsy looking shrubs for their look at the open edge of the mini forest.

When I picked up my three highbush shrubs, the volunteer put six in my car. No, no, I said, I only bought three. Keep them, he said. They were unsold during the ordering process.

I guess I looked like someone who could use more blueberries.

The plant sale order form had simply offered a "set of three" blueberries. It turns out the set included one early fruiting variety ('Northland'), one mid season variety ('Berkeley') and one late season ('Darrow').  And since I ended up with six plants, I actually have two of each variety.
'Northland'
Early. Wild berry taste in small fruits.
Orange fall color and reddish winter twigs. 
'Berkeley'
Mid-season. Mild taste in powdery blue berries.
Good fall foliage color, yellow stems in winter.
'Darrow'
Late season. The fruits are huge, half dollar size!
It doesn't produce very heavily, though.

(I grabbed these pictures from Northeast Nursery, Inc. when I was researching what I had bought.)

I really only wanted these highbush blueberries for their shrub look in the meadow, but now I'm intrigued with the fruit I might harvest. Does anyone grow these three types?

I'm a little worried, though, that I might have to register with the agriculture department as an operational fruit farm now.

41 comments:

  1. I love blueberries but don't grow them, since a.) I am tired of fighting the birds and squirrels, and b.) I think the big commercial varieties you buy in the supermarket are actually (gasp) better than the wild or more "gourmet" ones. I know - sacrilege. Too many blueberry bushes is not a bad problem to have, though: more nice fall foliage and great bird watching.

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    1. Sarah, confession -- I too like the supermarket berries better than the tart 'Northblue' that I am growing!

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  2. No I don't grow blueberries but you make them sound so yummy. If I had room I would have to have some Jelly Beans. All I can say is lucky you getting these freebies.

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    1. Lisa, Jelly Bean blueberry is a little round bun, very dwarf, and you could grow it in a pot. That's what I'm doing. Maybe there is room by your back door for a pot? : )

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    2. I do have room for one in a pot. I might try that if I can find one around here.

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  3. Impossible to have too many blueberries (at least with a family like mine).

    I have found them difficult to grow in Central PA. I really want some, but figure I'm going to have to find a space where I can put them in a raised, acidified bed.

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    1. Larkspur, the acidity of the soil is the key issue with blueberries. New England is known for its acidic soil, but my garden beds are just barely below neutral. Yet the blueberries (and my sourwood, which wants even more acidic soil) seem to do ok.

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  4. I love blueberries. I find them super easy to freeze (just wash, air dry and freeze them on a cookie sheet. Then put them into a storage container and pull out what you need.) I can-- by myself--eat between 8 and 12 pounds in a year. I have eaten last year's store and am eagerly waiting for the new season to begin.

    I think it's worth having a lot of them. I am sure you can share if you end up with too many.

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    1. Cristy, I do that with the berries too -- just pop them in the freezer and then snack on them when I come in after a hot day in the garden. I actually eat them frozen, it's a treat!

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  5. It's a good jam to be in. I've been thinking of planting a bush or two and this post has convinced me to go buy one at the native plant sale next weekend.

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    1. Kathryn, if you have slightly acid soil you can grow a blueberry. The more acidic the better. They really are pretty shrubs. I hope you find a nice one!

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  6. Laurie I love the idea of putting some highbush in my meadow for the birds. I will have to do this. Thanks!!

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    1. Donna, the birds will thank you : )

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  7. I'm impressed! I have two blueberry bushes that I bought last year. They weren't looking good, so I moved them to two containers. (My soil is acidic, but I think they weren't liking the clay.) One has several leaves on it, but the other still looks really, really bad. I love that you can grow so many blueberries. Fresh blueberries are sooooo delicious! And how nice of you to share with the birds. Perhaps you should just plant a few more and then charge for people to pick their own!

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    1. Holley, I like your idea of charging people to come do work in my garden. I'd like to post a sign telling people that for a small charge they could come pick weeds --- all they want for a flat fee!

      I hope your blueberries perk up or that you figure out what might be ailing them.

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  8. What a wonderful problem to have! I recently planted three 'Sunshine Blue' and I might actually net them so I can harvest the fruit. As much as I love blueberries, it always seemed like too much trouble.

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    1. Heather, Blueberry growing is trouble free, it's protecting the harvest that is a little labor intensive. If you net them, try putting tall stakes in the ground around the bush, then drape the netting over the stakes -- if the net is hung right on the shrub it gets too tangled in the branches to deal with.

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  9. Hi Laurrie...We planted four Blueberry bushes last fall so we won't be able to harvest any fruit for two more years :-(. But with the price of Blueberries in the stores, I think they will be worth the wait!

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    1. Christy, the advice for new blueberry bushes is to lop off all the blossoms the first year. It's so hard to do --- taking off all those pretty new flowers and getting no fruit. But if you do that, the following years will produce much better crops. If you can stand to do it, cut off all the blooms this May.

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    2. We will definitely do it...a little "pain" in May for greater results later!! :-) Thanks for the great advice!

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  10. Oh you are going to have some very happy birds. It's funny how a name can trigger you into thinking a plant will be great. I too have bought seeds or plants simply based on a name. One of the reasons I'm such a sucker for heritage seeds, the names are wonderful.

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    1. Marguerite, I buy wine that way too-- a catchy name or pretty label and I buy it.

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  11. Too many blueberries? Not sure that such a thing is possible. They are great plants after all, and I hope you appreciate that they grow happily in your area. If you really think there will be too many, just leave more for the birds. As Marguerite says, they will be very happy. I grow some low-bush and dwarf blueberries in containers - 'Little Crisp' and 'Top Hat'. Containers are the only way to go in this land of limestone soil. So far I've only gotten a couple of handfuls of berries.

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    1. Jason, I'm surprised at how well my blueberries do, given that my garden beds are barely below neutral, not really very acidic. But your limestone would be a real challenge. Good thing you can at least get some berries from container plants (Love the name 'Little Crisp')

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  12. Now that is a good story! I always like those little treats in life like someone giving you 3 extra plants just because! How spectacular! I especially like your potted blueberry plants..what lovely specimens for pots! Please let us know how the jellybean fruit tastes!! If it is anything like its name you are in for some delicious treats!

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    1. Nicole, I was pleased to have 3 free blueberry plants, even though I definitely didn't need any more! I too am anxious to taste the jelly beans. I hope they produce well.

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  13. I have never grown blueberries and so I have no advice to share. I don't think you could ever have too many blueberries. You can always freeze the surplus. Tart can sometimes work to advantage-I once had a blueberry sauce on some chicken at a fancy restaurant and it was one of the most memorable meals I ever had.

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    1. Jennifer, that chicken recipe sounds divine. I do freeze blueberries, and then snack on them as frozen treats, they're wonderful that way!

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  14. You're a wise gardener, Laurrie; unlike me, you plant enough blueberries for yourself and for the birds too. I wind up trying to outwit the winged thieves. Futile.

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    1. Lee, yeah, it is futile to try to keep the wildlife out of the blueberries! Plant one more, and then you can leave one for the birds and net the other. That's one way to outwit them.

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  15. I have Jelly Bean, too! I also have the slightly larger Peach Sorbet. The foliage has incredible coloration in cool weather. I love that you have so many blueberries. :o) They are one of my favorite fruits. The wildlife in your area must think your garden is pure heaven.

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    1. Tammy, Did you grow those two little berry bushes last year and did you get a crop? Tasty? With my other new blueberries I followed advice and pinched off the blossoms the first year for better yield in future years. Not sure I can do that with Jelly Bean, as I'm anxious to get fruit : )

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    2. Jelly Bean is a new introduction from Brazelberries that wasn't available last year. I already have fruit on mine that I plan on eating. I don't think the regular standard advice with blueberries applies to them since they were bred to be heavy fruiters and grow in a pot. But, hey, who knows? I could be totally wrong. :o)

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    3. Did you end up liking the Jelly Beans or Peach Sorbets better? I'm trying to decide. It sounds like Peach Sorbet has better foliage, but Jelly Beans might have more berries? What about taste?

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  16. I see lots of blueberry cobbler, blueberry pie, and blueberry jam in your future, Laurrie:) Blueberry bushes are such a pretty shrub, that even if you don't harvest much, you're going to enjoy them anyway. Maybe you can experiment and leave the tart ones for the birds and harvest just the sweet ones.

    I'm a marketer's dream, too, which is why I have so many heucheras with names like Tiramisu, Creme Brulee, and Plum Pudding. If it sounds yummy, it finds a place in my garden:)

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    1. Rose, I like your delicious heucheras! If only they produced fruit equal to their names : )

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  17. Oh, I wish I had your problem! I planted two Pink Lemonade blueberries this year, and now I want to plant more. We eat a lot of blueberries, and I suspect my two will be enough for a couple of breakfasts. I agree, Jelly Bean is a perfect name!

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    1. Deborah, I have seen the Pink Lemonade blueberries and they are fascinating -- truly a pink blueberry. Amazing.

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  18. I had to laugh when I read your story. Today at the plant sale the person in front of me in line when we were waiting to be let into the sale told that same story, yet there he was looking at more plants.

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    1. Charile, we all say we have too many plants, and then we rush to buy more. It's a problem -- a good problem!

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  19. Found this post in my quest to decide between Jelly Bean and Peach Sorbet. How do you like your Jelly Beans? Do they taste good?

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