PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 July 2014
The experts at Monkton Elm say blueberries are in demand
The beautiful blueberry seems so ubiquitous these days it’s hard to believe it’s a relative newcomer to the fruit market in the UK.
Originating in North America, the first berries arrived in select supermarkets 50 years ago, but it wasn’t until the past few years they really found favour, with various scientific studies claiming the blueberry can ward off heart disease, cancer, memory loss and even help burn belly fat!
The demand for plants in UK garden centres has also now increased and they are now readily available throughout the season.
Warm autumn colour, fruits that stay on the bush for a long time and bell-like flowers in spring are added bonuses.
The large, juicy indigo fruits are a world away from their close relation, the low growing whortleberry, abundant on moors where the soil is acid.
The Quantock Hills here in Somerset are a popular haunt for people in search of the small, but intensely flavoured, wild whortleberry, where they have been harvested for centuries. Blueberries can be successfully grown in large pots full of ericaceous compost, planted in groups of different varieties to increase yields through cross-pollination.
The most popular variety at the moment is Bluecrop – often the supermarket’s choice, because it is high yielding and disease resistant, with large juicy fruit, although Duke is also a heavy and consistent cropper, flowering late, which may help to avoid frosts in exposed areas.
Sunshine Blue may be a better choice for the smaller garden, as it is truly self fertile, its compact habit complemented by bright pink flowers in spring.
Look out for an exciting new development in blueberry breeding – Pink Lemonade has bright pink berries!
Blueberries are happiest in an acid soil with a pH of 4-5.5, with plenty of organic matter. Full sun or light shade, away from cold winds is perfect. Water regularly in dry spells and feed with an ericaceous liquid fertiliser.
Regular pruning is not essential but a few older stems can be removed if congested, in winter.
Blueberry & lemon jam
Blueberries can be eaten fresh, or used in many recipes, such as muffins and cheesecakes but they also make a subtle jam - perfect on a slice of hot buttery toast.
1 kilo blueberries
500g granulated sugar
Juice of three large lemons
Simmer the blueberries in a small amount of water until tender.
Add the sugar and lemon and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Turn the heat up high and boil until the jam sets; test for this by spooning a little jam onto a very cold plate - if the surface of the jam wrinkles, it is ready.
Pour immediately into hot, sterilised jars and screw the lids on tight.
Leave until cool then label. If the ‘set’ is too loose, this jam is also delicious spooned over ice-cream or swirled into yogurt.