Florida Blueberries

Florida’s spring crop of blueberries is here! While some growers with early varieties or those located in the southern areas have already started harvesting small amounts of our tasty blueberries the real volume will come later this month and on into April and May when central and north Florida picking begins.

Unlike the rabbit eye varieties grown in the north, which are usually tiny and have a moderate taste, our Florida Southern High Bush berries are large and have a wonderful sweet flavor. It is not unusual to find Florida blueberries as big as your thumb!

The berries you have been enjoying all winter probably spent a few weeks on a boat to get here after being harvested in South America. Our Florida blueberries come to you only a few days from the field. The appearance and taste of our freshly harvested blueberries is wonderful. Be sure to look for the “Fresh from Florida” label and check the country of origin on the package when you buy blueberries in the store.

Florida harvests the first blueberries in the US each year, so we are especially lucky to have this early crop of delicious fruit available to us locally each spring.

Blueberries are one of nature’s “Super Foods, “ full of nutrition and anti-oxidants and a great part of a healthy diet for folks of all ages. Scientific studies have proven that eating just a handful of fresh blueberries each day can help moderate your weight, improve brain function, help those with diabetes and make young minds and bodies grow strong and healthy.

You can include fresh Florida blueberries in your diet by eating them alone or adding them to your cereal or favorite baked goods. Berries will stay fresh in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks or you can freeze them and enjoy them all year long. To freeze fresh berries, rinse them and lay them out to dry on a cookie sheet in the freezer, once frozen, roll them into a zipper freezer bag, then you can remove a few at a time to enjoy as you wish. Frozen berries make an excellent, tasty snack that can be eaten without thawing. Just pop them in your mouth and enjoy the cool flavor of our Florida Blues!

You can also make wonderful “Gluten Free” pancakes using gluten free Bisquick or another gluten free baking mix and a handful of fresh or slightly thawed, frozen blueberries. This is my favorite, easy way to enjoy blueberries for breakfast.

You can plant your own blueberry plants at home, but growing them in most areas of Florida presents some challenges to the homeowner. Most blueberry varieties grown in our state do not like the sandy Florida soil found in most areas. Commercially, we grow them in fine pine bark beds, which can be duplicated at home with proper preparation. Consult with your local extension agent or check the University of Florida/IFAS web site for more information about growing your own crop of “little blue dynamos” in your back yard.

Florida celebrates all things blueberry each spring with the Florida Blueberry Festival, held this April 16- 17 in Brooksville, located in Hernando County, Florida, North of Tampa. The festival features fresh blueberries for sale and also blueberry pies, muffins and also a wonderful selection of some of the great blueberry wines being produced in Florida. The event also features arts and crafts vendors, live musical entertainment and this year, a 600 foot, two story tall water slide with be constructed down the main street of Brooksville. Bring your blue bathing suit to the event and take a ride on the slide!

Please enjoy all the “Fresh from Florida” Blueberry crop has to offer this spring. Your Florida Blueberry growers are proud to bring your family our fresh, healthy, locally grown crop each spring.

Everyone loves Florida blueberries, look for them at your local grocery store or take the family on a fun adventure and pick them yourself at one of the many “you pick” farms throughout the state.

More resources: Florida Blueberry Growers: http://floridablueberrygrowers.com/

Florida Blueberry Festival: https://www.floridablueberryfestival.org/

UF/IFAS: http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/

Dudley Calfee is an award winning grower, Agricultural Consultant and President of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association. He and his wife, Diane, reside in Citrus County, Florida.