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Around the Home: Its blueberry season in Georgia
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Rabbiteye blueberries are native to Georgia and compose most of our commercial blueberries production. In 2008, Georgia ranked fourth in blueberry production by producing 41 million pounds. Georgia has more than 16 thousand acres of blueberries.

Blueberries are harvested in Georgia from late May through mid July. In Georgia, blueberries are grown commercially primarily in the southern part of the state. But some also are grown in the North Georgia mountains.

Under good management, blueberry bushes will produce some fruit the second or third year after transplanting. By the sixth, year they will yield as much as 2 gallons each. The yield will continue to increase for several years as the plants get larger.

Handling blueberries

Blueberries are not as perishable as most other berries. While other berries keep their quality only a day or two after you buy them, blueberries will keep about a week if they are handled properly.

Use care in working with blueberries — they do bruise easily. Put blueberries in a plastic container and refrigerate them as soon as possible. Do not wash blueberries until you are ready to use them. The added moisture will hasten the growth of mold on the berries.

Freezing blueberries

Only ripe, full-flavored berries should be used for freezing. Blueberries do not have to be washed before freezing. Washing before freezing results in a tougher-skinned product. However, the berries should be harvested when they are dry, and they should be washed after thawing. Pack berries into containers, leaving headspace. Berries can also be frozen first on a tray and then packed into containers.

Crushed or pureed

Wash the blueberries. Crush, press berries through a fine sieve, or puree in a blender or food processor. Mix 1 to 1 1/8 cups of sugar with each quart (2 pounds) of crushed berries or puree. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Pack into containers, leaving headspace. Seal and freeze.

Nutritional value of blueberries

Blueberries can be classified as a convenience food because there is no pitting, peeling or waste. A pint serves four people generously, and a half-cup serving of blueberries contains only 44 calories.

Fresh blueberries are a source of vitamins A and C, soluble fiber, potassium, phytochemicals and phosphorous. Research concludes that the antioxidants in blueberries help protect the body against chronic diseases associated with aging.

The folic acid may help guard against cervical cancer and may benefit the fetus during pregnancy. Blueberries also help prevent urinary tract infections like cranberries.

Shiny, plump blueberries are delightful to eat:

Sprinkle fresh blueberries on cereal, ice cream, melons, or meringue shells.

Use blueberry sauce on vanilla pudding or ice cream.

Make blueberry crepes. Place sweetened blueberries sprinkled with lemon juice in the center of freshly cooked crepes and roll the crepes. Top with whipped cream and more berries or a blueberry sauce.

Stir blueberries into pancake, waffle, or cake batter.

Nestle a few blueberries inside biscuits along with a little butter and sugar, bake and serve hot.

Source: University of Georgia College of Agricultural
and Environmental Sciences and Alabama Cooperative.

Debbie Wilburn is a county extension agent in consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.

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