YOU may have noticed that blueberries at the local supermarket or the farmers market are getting bigger. The Guinness book of record is currently at 18.6 grams which is from a grower in Western Australia.
Most berries have been in the vicinity of one to two grams in weight but advances in local blueberry breeding are growing them up to 10 grams each, which means that some punnets may only hold a third of the actual quantity we buy today.
Blueberries are proving to be more lucrative than olives and more cost effective, as new machines to harvest the crop have cut the costs down from about $6 per kg to below $1 per kg.
Across the world nearly all crops are harvested by hand.
Consumers in Hong Kong and Singapore evidently like the larger fruit and specify fruit to be at least 18mm plus. Some are now 25mm plus, and it is a very lucrative market.
Meanwhile in NSW, Australia’s biggest blueberry growing region will be part of a trial using a native fly species (hover fly) to pollinate crops in areas affected by an outbreak of varroa mite, which can also affect bee hives and the honey industry and can lead to affected hives having to be destroyed and areas deemed to be affected marked as eradication zones with a restricted movement of bees.
It was hoped that the native fly could be an alternative pollinator to the bees if they were affected.
The varroa mite effect was varied as different berry crops had failed while other growers experienced a drop in berry quality and an increase in pollination costs.
Like the European honey bee, the hover fly (Eristalis tenax) feeds on flowers and when it processes pollen and nectar it is capable of pollination.
It seems that blueberries have been around for more 13,000 years and they are one of only a few foods that are naturally blue in colour. The pigment that gives blueberries their distinctive colour (anthocyanin) is the same compound that provides the blueberry’s amazing health benefits. One large handful or half a cup of juicy blueberries contain just 44 calories, two grams of dietary fibre and 10 per cent of the daily recommended vitamin C content.
It is well known that some blueberry additives are not real blueberries at all and are introduced as containing blueberry, but has not got the vitamin value of real blueberries.
Many of the berries are called super foods, as are many vegetables and fruit and nutritionists often say that consuming a little each day can help us stay as healthy as we can be.
Growing blueberries at home
Blueberries can be grown in south-east Queensland and they enjoy similar growing conditions to azaleas and they can be grown in containers. Here are some quick tips:
- protect from hot sun
- plant in acidic soils (pH 5.0)
- use high levels of organic matter
- allow excellent drainage
- l protect from birds and wildlife with netting