Blueberry fields forever

Published 1:14 pm Thursday, June 26, 2008

Extreme drought wrecked blueberry crops last year. This year, blueberry crops contain fields of blue polka-dotted bushes.

Around 3,000 people turned out for Petals of the Past’s annual Black and Blue Berry Festival earlier this month. With 350 bushes and a bumper crop of berries, no one went home empty handed. And that is just the beginning. Blueberry season has barely reached its peak.

Arlie, Gwen, Jason and Shelley Powell, Petals from the Past owners, have seen almost a 95 percent growth rate from the blueberry plants this season as a result of rain and minimal Easter freeze. Last year’s bushes only produced 70 percent of their capacity.

“The size the berries are reaching is phenomenal, and the taste is there,” Jason said. “The berries are responding well.”

Powell has a master’s degree in horticulture and knows what keeps blueberries happy. He recommends watering the plants deeply at the roots with a slow drip irrigation system once a week. The field the Powell family nurtures also has a 2-inch layer of mulch to protect the root system of the bush.

Petals from the Past also propagate blueberry bushes for those who like to try their own green thumb.

“We utilize our fields for teaching as well,” Powell said. “We give tips and techniques on how to grown blueberries. They are very easy to grow and don’t have a lot of common insect problems.”

Nine varieties of blueberries reside in the Petals from the Past field’s soil.

The best time to pick blueberries for fresh eating is in late June and throughout July. Some varieties are still available during early August.

Eating them fresh is not the only way to go, however. Powell said blueberry lovers are adding them to smoothies, peach cobblers and, of course, muffins and pies. One of the more unusual recipes Powell has found is a blueberry chicken salad from The Joy of Blueberries Cookbook.

Freezing blueberries for up to 12 months is another option to keep the tiny antioxidant-packed morsels in the refrigerator all year long. Blueberries are one of the only fruits that freeze well, Powell said.

“Blueberries are of duel interest,” Powell said. “It has that combination of fruit that is delicious and very good for you.”