Wild blueberries are native to the Americas, from forests in the Andes Mountains northward to the Arctic tundra. They were an important part of the food, culture, and medicinal practices of North America’s indigenous peoples for centuries before Europeans arrived on the continent. Via HortScience magazine, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain wrote his observations of the berries in 1615:

Champlain observed a gathering of Algonquin women as they dried “blues” in the sun. He noted that they prepared a kind of bread of pounded, sifted cornmeal, mixed with boiled, mashed beans, and then added the dried blueberries. The blueberries provided “manna in winter” when other food was scarce…

…and the writer Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) also observed:

“from time immemorial down to the present day, all over the northern part of America, (Indians) have made far more extensive use of the whortleberry at all seasons and in various ways than we, and that they were far more important to them than to us”

In this episode of True Food, Nicole Cotroneo Jolly explores how the blueberry transitioned from a wild plant to a commercially farmed one, as well as how they’re picked and processed in larger farms today.

Read more about horticulturalist Elizabeth Coleman White, botanist Frederick Vernon Coville, and epicuticular wax (bloom).

Next, watch How Does it Grow? Raspberries, California Ripe Olives: From Orchard to Store Shelf, from a flower to a strawberry in 30 days, and a yummy summer recipe: Fruit & Yogurt Breakfast Popsicles.

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