The First Harvesting of Blueberries Over a Century Ago

blueberry-287286_1280All crops found in orchards and farmlands throughout the country were once just wild plants gathered by our ancestors. The blueberry is no exception.

The first formal farming and harvesting of blueberries happened in New Jersey over a century ago. Elizabeth White, the oldest daughter of a Quaker landowner, was 39 years old in 1910 when she read a report put out by the Department of Agriculture that focused on blueberries.

The report suggested that people had little luck growing blueberries at home in their gardens because blueberries require very acidic soils, which isn't typical for most crops.

This information got Elizabeth's attention, and she wrote the USDA offering to pay for blueberry related experiments on her father's farm. The USDA expressed interest to Elizabeth, and she started her work by asking locals to bring her wild blueberry plants. She offered to pay good money for plants that had the larger berries.

People in the area brought her 100 flourishing blueberry plants loaded with plump and healthy berries. The best plants came from pine forests in the area where the soil is acidic. Today, pine bark is actually essential to growing blueberries in certain parts of the country. The people who brought her the bushes were known as "The Pine People".

A representative from the USDA learned how to use a cutting from one of these wild bushes to grow new bushes. There were enough cuttings from one wild bush to produce 100 new ones.

They also experimented with crossbreeding to produce new varieties that offered the biggest and most blueberries. By 1916, they had a large harvest of uniform bushes producing big, beautiful berries that tasted good and looked the same.

Now, blueberries are popular on a global basis, and can be grown almost anywhere. They are one of the healthiest fruits on earth, they are delicious, and they're available year-round.