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The perfect fruit!
Member Name: anwar7
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I love blueberries and as a family we get through a fair amount each week. Blueberries bought from a supermarket are expensive although available all year round. Like many people I am very aware of food miles and the cost to the environment so with this in mind I have been growing my own for the past few years. I thought it was time I wrote about this amazing little fruit and hope you will enjoy reading!
Blueberries are native to North America although they have only been cultivated here for around 100 years. Wild blueberries have been enjoyed by Native Americans for hundreds of years however and it was they who introduced the fruit. In the UK blueberries have only been grown commercially since 1959, a fact that really surprised me as they are really easy to grow! Blueberries belong to the Ericaceous family that also includes bilberries, cranberries, azaleas and Rhododendrons.
How to grow your own.
I started growing blueberries several years ago and have been very successful. The first thing to say is that there are numerous different varieties to chose from as a trip to most garden centres will show! It is recommended that you buy several different varieties of shrub and plant them together to ensure cross pollination. It is possible to buy a single blueberry plant but it won't bear such a god crop of fruit. Blueberry plants grow to about 1.5 metres in height and are a very attractive shrub with bright green leaves and small white, delicately scented flowers.
Blueberry plants like acidic soil and if Azaleas and Rhododendrons do well in your garden you know you will be ok! The plants also like to be in a sunny position with lots of light. Blueberry plants can be panted in pots in the autumn or winter and will start to flower from about July. When planting put a good amount of peat around the roots of each plant. I know that peat is a controversial product, but growing blueberries will cut down on food miles as those you buy in the supermarket will have traveled hundreds of miles. It is a good idea to put a mulch of pine needles around the base of the plant as these are acidic and will help to keep moisture in. The plants will need to be well watered and it is best to use rain water as this is more acidic than tap water. However when it was really dry I did use tap water and the plants were fine! When they start to flower I give my plants a feed using tomato plant feed.
The plants can be planted into the ground once they are established. They should be planted about 1.5 metres apart. Blueberry plants are very disease and pest resistant and really require little looking after which suits me well! They do need to be pruned from November to ensure the plant puts on good growth.
The plants will produce flowers with a lovely delicate scent from about July, followed by fruit. The fruit begins as green coloured berries ripening to a rich dark blue/purple colour. The fruit will need protecting from birds! The fruit is best left on the plant for a few days once it has reached a purple colour as this improves the flavour. My children love picking the berries and eating them!
Not only do blueberries taste and look good, but they are one of the best fruits you can eat in terms of health benefits. Home grown berries are not as sweet as those that are imported from sunnier climates and have a slightly tart taste. Blueberries are low in calories, fat free and contain Vitamin C, A, fibre and calcium. They are also very high in antioxidants. There has been research showing that Blueberries are very beneficial in keeping arteries healthy. If you want to know more simple type blueberries into Google and you will find several sites telling you all about the numerous health benefits!
Blueberries are really easy to eat as the only preparation needed is a quick wash and they are ready to eat. My children like to take a small pot of blueberries to school as part of their packed lunch, a bit like eating little sweets! My children often reject fruits like oranges as they need effort to peel and eat. As blueberries are so easy and fuss free to eat they are far less likely to be bought home uneaten at the end of the day!
Recipes and uses.
Not only can Blueberries be eaten in their raw form but they cook well too, producing lots of juice and giving a great colour. Blueberries can be easily damaged so take care when you wash them .They do freeze well and can be used in recipes once defrosted.
I have to say I prefer to eat Blueberries just as they are and love to add them to my breakfast porridge or breakfast biscuits in place of sugar.
I also add them to pancakes, again in place of sugar. Simple sprinkle a few blueberries before rolling up your pancake and the heat will burst the berries making then soft and juicy. Blueberries can be added to plain yogurt and stirred to give flavour and colour.I also make a blueberry smoothie that is very popular with my family. Just add a handful of blueberries and a banana to some milk and blitz.
My children love to cook and blueberry muffins are really easy to make. This recipe comes from the BBC's Saturday kitchen -
110g/4ozs plain flour.
65g/21/2 ozs castor sugar.
2 free range eggs.
11/2 tsp baking powder.
125g/41/2 ozs blueberries.
Pinch of nutmeg.
1. Cream the butter and sugar together then ad the beaten eggs. Add the flour and the baking powder and finally the nutmeg and combine.
2. Put the mixture into the fridge and leave overnight.
3. Divide the mixture into muffin cases and then add about 8 blueberries to each. Push the blueberries down gently into the mixture.
4. Bake at 200c/400f for about 20 minutes until golden brown.
I have made these muffins several times now and they are delicious! The blueberries burst in the oven making the muffins very moist and flavorsome. They won't last long once out of the oven!
If you are not able to grow your own then blueberries are available all year round in the supermarkets. They are quite expensive with a small container costing around £3.You should inspect carefully before you buy as Blueberries are easily damaged .Smaller fruits can have more flavour than plump larger ones so don't always go for the biggest! However home grown blueberries are definitely the best!
Overall I really recommend you try this fruit if you have not already done so. Blueberries are, in my opinion, delicious, a gorgeous colour and they are really good for you.