Blueberries are the fruits produced by the Vaccinium botanical genus of the Ericaceae family. The name blueberry is often improperly used to refer to the entire plant, but more precisely with the term blueberry we refer to the berries it produces.
In nature there are numerous species, more than 100, which are characterized by the diversity of the color of the fruits and the characteristics of the stem. It grows spontaneously throughout the northern hemisphere but has a very different structure depending on the region of diffusion. The species widespread in Europe are shrubby and generally do not exceed half a meter in height, have deciduous leaves and oval berries sometimes gathered in clusters; on the other hand, North American varieties are real trees and grow in height up to 9 meters, with gnarled and pulpy bluish berry stems. The fruits of the different varieties differ in size and color. Next to the small berries of the European species we find the American giant species, more demanding in terms of cultivation of the eastern cousins that, instead, grow spontaneously in the wooded areas. We have black berries, bluish or bright red, with a sweet or sour taste and more or less intense aromas.
Although it is a wild plant, the fruits destined for trade derive mainly from cultivation plants, where in particular the American giant varieties and the cranberry (red berry and a balanced taste between sweet and sour) are produced.
How to grow blueberries
Blueberries are well suited to home cultivation, as they have few claims. They prefer a soil with an acid pH (4.5-5), slightly calcareous, loose and very fertilized.
It is good to keep in mind that the plant begins to bear fruit late, therefore the first germination cycles will not return an abundant fructification. Only from the fourth year will it be possible to obtain results, however, with the right care, an adult plant can produce berries in quantities over 1 kg and up to 5 kg.
It is a plant that requires a lot of patience, since it has a slow growth, therefore the rooting must start already in late summer to ensure the spring bloom.
Propagation by woody cuttings is the most effective, but roots do not always develop easily. To overcome this problem it is good to prepare more cuttings, to ensure good soil moisture and good sun exposure or in any case not in excessively shaded or poorly ventilated areas.
The slender root system allows for a simple potting, not requiring much space, however given its fragility it is necessary to pay close attention during the fertilization phase. Fertilization must be carried out with acidophilic fertilizers, rich in nitrogen, starting from 4 weeks after planting the plant and periodically continuing especially during the spring period.
Cranberry crop needs
Blueberry is basically a plant that resists cold but poorly tolerates drought and sultriness; an acid mulch with bark, dry oak leaves and pine needles ensures a correct level of humidity and freshness to the soil, as well as reducing the risk of spreading weeds. In order not to run the risk that the plant develops rots of the root system it is necessary to keep the level of the calcareous substances dissolved in the ground under control, for this it is very important in the watering phase to prefer rainwater to the tap water that contains a greater concentration of the mineral.
With due care, the plant will flower in spring, adorning itself with small white or pink bellflowers. If the plant is still very young, these inflorescences must be sacrificed to promote root development. However, even for adult plants it is necessary to prune during the first spring periods.
When the cranberry finally bears fruit, remember that it will be advisable to protect the fruits from the birds, since they will have to remain on the plant until they are completely ripe. An early harvest, in fact, will not allow the berries to acquire a less sour taste, and once they are detached from the plant, they will no longer be able to ripen beyond.
Blueberry berries are consumed both naturally and in the form of preserves. If properly matured they have a very pleasant taste, in perfect balance between sour and sweet, and are also rich in beneficial properties. They are often used in the pharmaceutical and herbalist field as they stimulate blood circulation, act as a natural disinfectant of the urinary tract and are supportive in cases of eyestrain.