By Karen Brux
Consumers have grown to love fresh blueberries for both the flavor and nutrition they add to meals and snacks. When they read about foods recommended for a healthy diet, foods rich in vitamins and anti-oxidants, blueberries are often at the top of the list. While consumers expect to find them year-round, most probably don’t know that for half the year, the fresh blueberries they enjoy come from outside North America.
The North American highbush blueberry harvest season is April through October. To keep menus fresh and interesting all year, chefs count on shipments of South American blueberries. Fortunately for consumers, farmers in South America begin harvesting blueberries right as the North American season winds down in October. And just as the North American harvests begin in April, the last blueberries are being shipped from South America.
Ranked as the largest producer of farm-grown blueberries in the Southern Hemisphere and second largest in the world, Chile’s leading position in the world market stems from efforts made by a steady search for excellence in providing a consistent supply of fresh blueberries of the highest quality and safety. And, because of its natural barriers, such as the Atacama Desert in the North, the Pacific Ocean to the West, the Andes Mountains to the East and the frozen expanse of the Antarctic to the South, Chile is naturally protected from agricultural pests and is considered to be a “phytosanitary island”. These barriers, together with the country’s excellent soil conditions, climate and water, make Chile a dependable supplier of fresh blueberries during the North American seasonal gap.
Fresh blueberries from Chile are especially welcome by foodservice customers during winter and offer endless year-round menu possibilities – sprinkled on oatmeal, whirled in a green tea smoothie, tossed in a farro salad, layered in a yogurt parfait, baked in a chocolate molten cake or stirred into a blueberry ginger soda.
Karen Brux, Chilean Fresh Fruit Association’s Managing Director for North America, has enjoyed 25 years in the fresh produce industry, working on behalf of kiwifruit growers in New Zealand and table grape producers in California. Karen advocates for the central role that fresh produce plays in a healthy, balanced diet for both kids and adults.