Watch this video to tour a blueberry farm with The Chew!
Have you ever wondered to yourself, “How do blueberries grow?” Botanically speaking, blueberries (genus Vaccinium) are part of a plant family that includes the flowering azalea, mountain laurel and heather-plants. They like acid soil and plenty of water.
The ones you find fresh in grocery stores – grow on bushes that are often planted in long rows. The bushes can grow up to 12 feet tall, but most peak at about 6 feet. In the spring, clusters of beautiful white blossoms pop up all over the bushes and are pollinated by bees. Each blossom eventually becomes one blueberry – first hard and green, then reddish-purple, and finally blue, sweet and ready to eat!
For the fresh market, blueberries are mainly picked by hand, but some are gathered with large harvesting machines that move slowly along the rows of blueberry plants and gently shake each one so ripe berries fall into a catching frame. (Most machine-harvested berries are washed, frozen and sold in stores year-round.)
Next, blueberry workers gather the berries in large bins and transport them by truck or tractor from the field to a packing plant, where they’re placed on moving conveyor belts. There, the blueberries are sorted and any bruised or unripe ones are removed. Only round, plump berries pass the inspection point.
The best fresh blueberries are packaged in clear clamshell containers with labels indicating where they were grown and packed, and then stored in large refrigerated rooms until they’re taken to market.