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Fields, Forests & Wetlands Foods of Eastern North America

A Complete Wild Food Guide

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Blueberries.jpg


Season: Later Spring & Summer


Urban, Rural or Both: Rural or Cultivated


Blueberries are in the Vaccinium genus, and there are numerous types depending on where you live and what are grown commercially locally. Below are the common ones that grow east of the Rockies.

There are others in this family, the list I provide is not complete. Here are places to start for further information:

Blueberries are nice to find in the wild, as I've read they are a crop that has a fair bit of chemicals used when grown commercially. When you buy ones at the store that are called Wild Blueberries, that doesn't mean picked by hand from non-cultivated plants. It is a reference that the Blueberries came from a Lowbush variety, and could have been grown commercially with chemicals. If you want chemical free Blueberries, you are going to have to gather them yourself, or buy ones certified as "organic". There are two basic groups of Blueberries, the Highbush which are the most common commercially grown types, and the Lowbush type which are sold as Wild.

They prefer an acidic soil. If you live in an area that is known to have acidic soil, you should have no trouble finding some in a wooded area or in open fields. If you live in an area that has alkaline soil, I doubt you will have much luck.

When I lived in Central Ontario, my property was on marble bedrock close to the surface which made for alkaline soil. There were no blueberries. A couple of miles away there was mainly granite bedrock with Spruce, Fir and Pine trees, which generally makes for acidic soil, and there were blueberries all over where there had been clearing from logging.

So how do you know where to look? Here are a few hints to get started by determining whether or not the soil is acidic:

You can also ask at a local garden center or better yet a tree or plant nursery. They will know, as plants they sell will do better in one or the other soil types.

Blueberries are great to eat raw, cooked or in baked foods. They freeze well. Not much I can add on the subject other than if you buy them fresh or frozen, give them a good wash under strong flowing water before using.


Growing this plant in your home garden:

If you have acidic soil where you live, you should have no problem growing them at home. Remember: they attract bears, so keep that in mind if deciding whether you want to grow them if you live in bear country. If you don't have acidic soil where you live, see if a local nursery has the alkaline soil Blueberry I've heard about (but never found), or if you really want to grow them, ask at the nursery how to make the soil where you plant them acidic - it can be done on a small scale. Usually it involves adding a lot of conifer needles to the soil, digging it in, and adding elemental sulphur regularly.

They are not hard to grown in pots if you get the correct variety. Just use an acidic soil mix (ask where you buy bags of soil) and use an acidifying fertilizer. Most of these fertilizers have elemental sulphur in them, and the Blueberries should do well. When you buy them, ask for a variety that will do well for container growing. Never put lime on soil Blueberries are grown in.

For detailed growing instructions, go to my Wild Foods Home Garden website Blueberry page.

Recipe search on the web here (Google search) and here (Bing search).



Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium).


Lowbush Blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Lowbush Blueberry sketch

Lowbush Blueberry sketch. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 701.)



Northern Blueberry (Vaccinium boreale).


Northern Blueberry (Vaccinium boreale) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.



New Jersey Blueberry (Vaccinium caesariense).


New Jersey Blueberry (Vaccinium caesariense) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


New Jersey Blueberry sketch

New Jersey Blueberry drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 701.)



Northern Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). Has other common names such as: Blue Huckleberry, Swamp Huckleberry, Swamp Blueberry.


Northern Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Northern Highbush Blueberry sketch

Northern Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum) sketch. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 700.)



Southern Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium darrowii). Other names include: Scrub Blueberry, Highbush Blueberry, Darrow's Blueberry.


Southern Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium darrowii) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.



Elliott's Blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii). This variety is known to have more sour tasting fruit that other Blueberry species, but still quite edible, and very good for cooking with. Each shrub can produce a large crop of fruit.


Elliott's Blueberry (Vaccinium elliottii) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Elliott's Blueberry

Elliott's Blueberry bush. (Robert H. Mohlenbrock, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA SCS. 1991. Southern wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. South National Technical Center, Fort Worth.)


ALT NAME

Elliott's Blueberry drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 703.)



Canadian Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides). Also known as the Common Blueberry, Velvetleaf Blueberry, Sourtop Blueberry, Velvetleaf Huckleberry. This is the sweetest tasting of the Blueberries.


Canadian Blueberry (Vaccinium myrtilloides) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Canadian Blueberries

Canadian Blueberries


Canadian Blueberry sketch

Canadian Blueberry sketch. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 701.)



Hillside Blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum). Known also as the Blue Ridge blueberry.


Hillside Blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Hillside Blueberry drawing

Hillside Blueberry drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 702.)



Rabbit-eye Blueberry or Southern Black Blueberry (Vaccinium virgatum). Known also as the Smallflower blueberry.


Rabbit-eye Blueberry or Southern Black Blueberry (Vaccinium virgatum) range. Distribution map courtesy of U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA Natural Resources Service) and used in accordance with their policies.


Rabbit-eye Blueberry or Southern Black Blueberry drawing

Rabbit-eye Blueberry or Southern Black Blueberry drawing. (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 703.)





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Important Notes when Identifying
Rules & Cautions
Dangerous Plants to Avoid Touching
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