Apples, cherries and many other plants give displays of beautiful flowers followed by delicious fruit. Blueberries do that, and more.
They put on a ravishing display of autumn colour, and grow happily in containers. Pollinating insects love their pretty flowers and as a final bonus, the wetter the British summer, the more they like it.
Blueberries are native to North America.
They’re divided into Highbush (bigger, better cropping, more commercial varieties ) and Lowbush (smaller, less productive) types. They grow naturally in boggy places with acid soils. If that doesn’t sound like your garden, don’t worry. My blueberries have lived in 14” (35cm) pots of ericaceous compost for years. Each spring I scrape off the surface, then top up with fresh compost. Watering with dilute ericaceous feed a couple of times during the growing season also helps. I stand their pots in shallows trays, which I keep topped up with rainwater. This mimics the wetlands where they love to grow.
Blueberry flowers are small, cream or pink bells. They are loved by bees. Grow at least two varieties to make sure you don’t have pollination problems. Then you’ll get a bumper crop of fruit, which ripens in mid-to-late summer. Bluecrop and Chandler are two good, heavy-yielding varieties.
Blueberries have been credited with all sorts of health benefits. They are a good source of vitamin K, and also contain vitamin C, fibre, manganese and other antioxidants. To get the most from them, eat the fruit raw. A handful added to a bowl of cereal is a great start to the day.
Cooking slightly reduces their superfood status, but blueberry pudding is a delicious treat.
Wash and drain 250g of ripe blueberries. Put them in a casserole dish and sprinkle over two tablespoons of caster sugar. Add four tablespoons of water (replace half the water with cassis if you’re feeling decadent). In a separate bowl, make an all-in-one sponge mixture by beating together 175g softened butter, 175g caster sugar, three eggs and 175g self-raising flour for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Spread this mixture evenly over the fruit, and bake the pudding in the oven at 180 deg. c/Gas Mark 4 for 35-40 minutes, or until the sponge is golden and cooked through. Serve with ice cream or custard.
In autumn, blueberry leaves turn fiery shades of red and orange before falling. That’s the time to cut out any dead or badly placed branches, to make room for new shoots which push up from the base of the plant.
Autumn is the perfect time of year to start growing blueberries—and dreaming of juicy fruit to come.
They’re readily available from garden centres, or you can find the Dorset Blueberry Company online at http://www.dorsetblueberry.co.uk.