What bountiful Jersey Fresh crop is a fan favorite, the star of countless summer desserts, and a healthy snack to boot? If it’s June in Jersey, it’s time to celebrate blueberries!
The blueberry is the official state fruit and for good reason: according to the N.J. Department of Agriculture, 8,800 acres of blueberries were harvested in 2014 with a value of $79.5 million, making New Jersey the fifth largest producer of blueberries in the U.S. That figure is up 40% from the prior year, and it’s no wonder: the blueberry is being touted as a superfood. With only 80 calories a cup, these tiny treats are packed with vitamin C, and are a good source of fiber and manganese (U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council).
Blueberries are abundant in South Jersey, where the sandy, acidic soil of the Pine Barrens is especially suited to the crop. In fact, blueberries were first cultivated in Whitesbog around 1916 by Elizabeth Coleman White, who propagated choice wild berries gathered by the locals. That piece of blueberry history is celebrated every year at Whitesbog’s Annual Blueberry Festival. The 32nd festival will be Saturday, June 27, 2015, at Historic Whitesbog Village in Browns Mills.
Nowhere is the blueberry more revered than in Hammonton, the self-proclaimed Blueberry Capital of the World. The 29th Annual Red, White and Blueberry Festival is Sunday, June 28, 2015, and will feature blueberry ice cream, blueberry cannolis, and of course, the traditional blueberry pie-eating contest.
Still can’t get enough of those berries? Head out to Emery’s Berry Patch in New Egypt, where you can pick your own from the 20 acres of certified organic berries. On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon, owner Susan Marchese was busy with customers satisfying their blueberry cravings with fresh-baked blueberry doughnuts, naturally sweetened blueberry spreads and blueberry pie, one of the 21 varieties of their famous fruit pies. She recommended the aptly named Trifecta, a perfect combination of blueberries mated with sweet cherries and fresh peach chunks.
Heading east to Galloway Township, Art Brown was out in the fields at B&B Farms, a family affair where Brown’s wife, Carolyn, offers u-pick blueberries and their niece, Jennifer Lamonica, grows a variety of produce offered through her Sea Salt CSA. The former N.J. Secretary of Agriculture and architect of the Jersey Fresh campaign also farms some unique African and other ethnic crops.
Down the road in Galloway, keep your eyes open for small family farm Legendary Blueberries, which can be reached at 609-703-3355. Customer service may be on hand for a few hours in the morning—and if you’re nice, you may get treated to an ice pop! You’ll always find plenty of buckets available for their honor-system-based self-service.
A pick-your-own outing is a great family activity. Blueberries are easy pickings, as the highbush berry plants grow tall and at the height of the season are loaded with berries. Look for berries that are firm, dry, plump and smooth-skinned with a deep purple color. Refrigerate immediately. Picked a bumper crop? Don’t wash the berries yet! Freeze dry unwashed berries in resealable plastic bags.
For More Info
You can find a wealth of pick-your-own blueberry farms throughout the state. Check out Jersey Fresh for a list of locations. The season runs from late June to mid-August, roughly, but farmers universally warn: make sure to call first to check out each day’s availability.