Blueberries are a world-wide favorite of both adults and children and continue to grow in popularity. That reality is evidenced by the dramatic surge in production during the past decade. World-wide production was slightly over 240,000 metric tons in 2000, by 2010 global output had surged 30% to over 310,000 metric tons. The United States is overwhelmingly the world’s largest producer of blueberries representing about 60% of world blueberry production. Meanwhile, Canada is also an important component of world supply with approximately 25% of the world’s blueberries originating from the country. Other significant production occurs in Poland, the Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand and Romania.
The United States also serves as the largest player with reference to global trade being both the primary exporter and importer of blueberries in the world. The U.S. imports nearly $300 million worth of blueberries annually, while exporting about half that amount.
Blueberry production within the U.S.is dominated by about ten states; state rankings (high-to-low) are as follows: Maine, Michigan, Oregon, Georgia, New Jersey, Washington, North Carolina, California, Florida and Mississippi. Maine’s commercial production includes both wild and cultivated varieties. Blueberries destined for fresh use versus processing is split about evenly. However, because of the fruit’s increasing popularity, blueberries are now grown in a large number of states across the U.S.
Blueberries are grown on shrubs (not vines). There are two primary varieties of blueberries: highbush and lowbush, The lowbush variety is native to the northeastern U.S. and Canada. The highbush variety is native to more southern regions and the most common type found in commercial operations. Regardless of type and/or area of cultivation, blueberries are found in all sorts of different products including baking mixes, non-alcoholic beverages, snacks, yogurt and ice cream products, jams and preserves, candy, and breakfast cereals.
Blueberry shrubs are very sensitive to soil conditions including pH, levels of organic matter and drainage. It generally requires several years for shrubs to become established, though once established they are very hardy and produce for many years.
Nutritionally speaking, blueberries are noted for containing high levels of manganese, Vitamins C and K, and dietary fiber.
Did you know? There really is a difference between a blueberry and a huckleberry? Differences which some people take very seriously! For starters, they are derived from a different genus of plant: the huckleberry – Gaylussacia; the bluberry – Vaccinium. Second, it’s generally accepted that huckleberry plants are not grown commercially; you can only find huckleberries in the wild. And third, blueberries tend to have a smoother, mellower flavor as compared to the huckleberry.