They’re healthy. They’re bite-sized. And they’re absolutely delicious. So we’re not quite sure why these berries have the blues – but we sure do love them anyway.
Even better: There are so many different types of blueberries to love!
Out of the Blue
Indeed, blueberries are one of the most popular fruits in the world – though today they’re commercially grown in just a relatively small portion of it: the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.
That might be because these little gems need a little cold to do their thing. Unlike many fruits, which only settle for tropical paradises and the climates to match, blueberries actually require a chilling factor in order to blossom. But that built-in hardiness helps the plants grow so wonderfully in the wild, popping up on a few different types of bushes (more on that later) that flourish in the forest-like atmosphere of those wintry regions and a few others across the world.
And their natural tendency to grow so well in deciduous places may also be a factor in their longstanding popularity, with blueberries holding a special place in the diets of North American and European natives for thousands of years.
Of course, today, they continue to hold a special place in our diets – most notably in the form of jams, pies and smoothies. And it’s all thanks to a couple of very well-equipped bushes, including:
Northern Highbush Blueberries
The most popular type of blueberry bush grown in the United States, these plants are most commonly found across the Pacific Northwest and throughout the Atlantic Coastal Plain – that is, from New England to Georgia.
Highbush varieties were first developed in New Jersey, and accordingly, require more chill than other types of blueberries. (Because, after all, what’s more chill than the Garden State?)
And while they’re among the largest types of blueberry plants, they’re also one of the most finicky, requiring the most pruning. (We feel we can probably thank their New Jersey heritage for such meticulous grooming habits, too!)
Still, northern highbushes produce some of the most delicious and popular blueberry cultivars around, including:
One of the prettiest varietals, this type of blueberry is noted for its lighter blue color, but it also has a long list of other admirable features, including its particular hardiness in the cold and draught and resistance to cracking.
Taste-wise, these types of blueberries have a lot to offer too, coming in firmer than most, with a sweet scent and flavor.
Like the bird it’s named for, this varietal is commonly found in the Upper Midwest and is known for its sprightly and vigorous nature.
The berries grow gangbusters, blossoming faster and further than many other types of blueberries – so it’s a good thing they bring with them lots of tasty flesh and solid firmness.
Not to be confused with the technology that replaced DVDs – but bearing equal claims to higher quality – this type of blueberry is arguably the tastiest of all.
The berries are smaller than most, but full-to-bursting with juice that sings with patented blueberry sweetness and a perfect berry scent practically made for making pies, cobblers and crumbles.
Southern Highbush Blueberries
Spoiled after years of easy fruit growing, the Southern regions wanted in on the blueberry action – and they weren’t going to let a little chill factor get in the way.
Hence, the Southern Highbush variety was developed – specifically in Florida – to let blueberry glory spread to sunnier regions.
The plants have a higher tolerance for heat and need far less time chilling to deliver the goods. And, unsurprisingly, they’re more heavily clustered in the Southern United States, including their home state of Florida, California and Texas.
Some of their most delicious fruits include:
Despite sporting the color of their rival Tarheels, these bushes were first developed by North Carolina State University. (Though, technically, these types of blueberries are a much deeper blue than the famous UNC logo.)
But they deliver in areas other than hue, with a notably firm – and crack-resistant – skin, soft aroma and delectable taste.
It may blossom better in the South, but this type of blueberry was actually first developed in New Jersey – at the state’s famous Rutgers University.
It’s known for being one of the more tart tasting types of blueberries out there, but the plant is otherwise celebrated for it’s very low number of required chilling hours and overall vigor.
Another one of the nation’s most popular types of blueberries, these babies represent the most widely-planted Southern Highbush varietals.
That’s likely due to their laundry list of likeable qualities, including an early ripening timeline, a large size, a pretty deep blue color, solid firmness, and a particularly sweet taste.
Rabbiteye Highbush Blueberries
These types of blueberries really can do it all – sprouting up all over the place, no matter the weather.
The Swiss army knife of blueberry plants is particularly noted for its easy grow-ability and the especially lovely fruits it produces, which, as a whole, carry a higher sugar content – and accompanying sweeter taste – a lighter blue color and a larger stature.
Some of the most popular types of blueberries grown on these bushes include:
On the lower-chill side of the spectrum, this cultivar is more often found down South, where it’s noted for its lively growth schedule.
Ira blueberries grow in great clusters on their rabbiteye bushes, blossoming with a wonderful sweetness and a firm flesh that makes them one of the best types of blueberries for storing.
These types of blueberries can actually grow all year round, thanks to a particular hardiness imbued in the plant, which also lends itself to crack-resistance and a strong, firm skin.
Flavor-wise, these berries are among the best, and thankfully, they typically come with a sweet smell to match.
Noted for their powder-blue pallet, these berries are just as beautiful to eat as they are to look at.
They’re among the sweetest types of blueberries out there, as well as the juiciest, and their tough skins make them a popular pick for storing.
Where it all began.
There are also known as wild blueberries, and while they still thrive in the United States, you’re more likely to come across them in Canada or Europe.
These varietals rarely grow more than knee-high, preferring to spread out – rather than up – as they grow.
Still, by and large, these all-natural varietals are some of the absolute sweetest and most delicious types of blueberries, and they’re still heavily favored by blueberry purists and enthusiasts everywhere.
It just goes to show that no matter how good New Jersey may be at making blueberries, Mother Nature still knows best.