Thursday, July 30, 2015

Get Your Fresh, Local Blueberries Now

From the state Department of Agriculture and Markets:

Fresh blueberries at Hafner's farm in Lysander. Photo courtesy of Hafner's
It is peak blueberry season in New York state and New Yorkers should get out and support the state’s increasing number of growers.  

The New York State Berry Growers Association estimates there are more blueberry plantings in New York than ever before as a result of several factors. 

From the demonstrated health benefits of eating blueberries and increased consumer demand for locally grown berries to New York’s climate, excellent soils, and ample water supplies, the Growers Association is seeing more people making the long-term investment necessary to bring a planting of blueberries into production.

“Blueberry season may be a short season but it is a very productive season and I couldn’t be happier for our growers who continue to rank well in production year after year,” said Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball. “I encourage all New Yorkers to support their growers this season which is as easy as stopping by your local farmers’ market or pick-your-own farm.”

New York growers plant over 40 different varieties of blueberries across the state to provide the delicious fruit for New York consumers for as long a period as possible. From “Duke” and "Patriot” varieties that can be harvested in early July to “Bonus” and “Elliott” that can be harvested into the middle of September, New York consumers can find local blueberries for about ten weeks.  

Peak season is late-July into early August. 

Blueberry bushes take about eight years to become fully productive. In 2014, 700 acres of blueberries were harvested across the state. While about the same acreage is expected to be harvested in 2015, more of that acreage should be approaching full production, resulting in more supply to New York consumers. 

“Many New York State blueberry growers have a bountiful crop this year," said Dale-Ila Riggs, president of the New York State Berry Growers Association. "The summer weather and frequent rains have made the berries plump and sweet." 

New York State was the 11th largest blueberry producer in the nation in 2014. Growers harvested 1.6 million pounds of blueberries last year and produced a crop worth $2.8 million.

New York state grown blueberries are now available at select grocery stores, farm stands, farmers’ markets and pick-your own farms across the state. A map of farmers’ markets across New York State, many of which offer fresh, local blueberries, can be found here or by county here.

Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to prepare and serve for consumers. When preparing blueberries there is no peeling, pitting, coring or cutting involved.  Blueberries can be eaten fresh out of hand and go well with other New York produced fruits in a fruit salad or with New York yogurt.  

They are also making an appearance in New York’s beverage industry—now used in products such as Blueberry Wine made at Blue Sky Farm and Winery in Delaware County and Nine Pin Ciderworks’ Blueberry cider made with blueberries harvested at Indian Ladder Farms in Albany County.

Blueberries are not only delicious but they provide a variety of health benefits. The fruit is reported to have one of the highest antioxidant contents among all fruits and vegetables. They are also a good source of vitamin K, vitamin C, and manganese, and have been found to maintain healthy bones, lower blood pressure and manage diabetes. 

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