It’s Blueberry Time in Henderson County!
The first blueberry varieties of the season are now ripe and ready to harvest in western NC. If you do not have blueberry bushes in your home garden, there should be plenty available at local farmers markets and pick-your-own farms throughout the county. North Carolina ranks sixth in the nation for blueberry production with approximately 46 million pounds of blueberries picked and sold statewide.
In Henderson County, rabbiteye blueberries are the most common type of blueberry grown, however, farms above 2500 feet in elevation exclusively grow highbush blueberries due to their cold tolerance. Interestingly there is no differentiation between blueberry types in the market and all are considered one of nature’s superfoods. Not only are blueberries one of the most delicious fruits grown in the South, but they are also packed full of nutrition. Compared with other fruits and vegetables, blueberries rank high when it comes to fighting cancer and heart disease. This is no surprise since the blueberry is found to contain loads of vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, and flavonoids.
Rabbiteye blueberries are usually hand harvested since all the berries on a bush ripen at different times. The best berries to pick are light gray-blue to dark blue-black. If you see a berry with a hint of red still on it, wait a little longer before harvesting since it has not fully ripened. Ripe berries will pull away very easily from the bush with just the slightest touch of your fingers, while unripe berries that are green or white will remain attached to the plant.
Once you harvest your berries you can preserve them two different ways depending on when you plan to eat them. If you’re going to use them fresh, chill the berries in the refrigerator as soon as you get them home. Fresh-picked blueberries will last 10 to 14 days in the refrigerator. However, if you want to save some berries to enjoy on a year-round basis freezing is the preferred storage method. The best technique for freezing is to place the berries one-layer deep on a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer overnight, and then pour the berries into plastic containers or freezer bags. Freezing the berries on a cookie sheet prior to placing them into their storage containers keeps the berries from sticking together. It is important not to wash the berries before freezing since this makes the skin of the fruit tough and decreases overall fruit quality. Just don’t forget to wash frozen and fresh berries before serving.
Blueberry Vendors at Henderson County Farmers Markets
|Mills River Farmers Market||Bearwallow Valley Farms, Pressley Farms, Brittain Farms|
|Hendersonville Farmers Market||Tiny Bridge Farm, Pressley Farms, Lewis Creek Farm|
|Henderson County Tailgate Market||Misty Mountain Berries & Beans, Edsel’s Produce|
Obermiller’s Strawberry Farm also has U-Pick Blueberries and Blackberries! Check them out on Facebook
Creasman Farms has Blueberries at the Asheville City Market and Transylvania Farmers Market. Check them out on Facebook
Visit the McConnell Farm Store, Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. to pick-up blueberries from their retail store.