Contact: Lynne Richmond (609) 292-8896
(TRENTON) – Agriculture Secretary Charles M. Kuperus today announced Jersey Fresh blueberries – New Jersey’s official state fruit -- are in season and blueberry harvesting is underway.
The blueberry season is running about a week early this year due to warm spring temperatures and dry conditions in March and April. Growers expect this to be a good year with good quality and a slightly higher fresh market yield than last year. Blueberries are usually available beginning in mid-June, peaking in July and ending in mid-August.
“While New Jersey blueberries are loved for their taste and freshness, they also are jam packed with fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium and folate,” said Secretary Kuperus. “Blueberries are a much sought after crop not only in our state but in this region because they can be prepared in a variety of ways, from blueberry pancakes and cobblers, to blueberry wines.”
The evidence is mounting as to the health benefits of blueberries. United States Department of Agriculture researchers found that blueberries ranked first in antioxidant activity in comparison to 40 other fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful by-products of metabolism called "free radicals" that are associated with cancer and other age related diseases.
In 2005, a total of 45 million pounds of blueberries were produced on 7,500 acres. The value of the utilized production was $55.5 million. Atlantic County led the state with 5,900 acres harvested, with Burlington County farmers harvesting 1,300 acres.
Atlantic County is the top blueberry-producing county in New Jersey. The major variety of blueberry grown in New Jersey is Blue Crop, followed by Duke, named for one of the founders of Atlantic Blueberry Company in Hammonton.
New Jersey is the largest fresh market blueberry supplier in the nation. The state ranks second in the country in number of acres of blueberries harvested.
Blueberries also are a part of our agri-tourism industry, with pick-your-own farms in ten counties throughout the state. To find a pick-your-own blueberry farm or markets carrying Jersey Fresh blueberries, visit the Jersey Fresh website at www.jerseyfresh.nj.gov.
The Department offered these tips for selecting blueberries:
- Look for blueberries that are plump and fresh looking;
- Pay particular attention to their color; they should be blue, black, bluish-black or purple;
- Blueberries have a gray, waxy deposit on the skin called bloom. The bloom is a protective coating, so do not wash blueberries until ready to use;
- Freeze blueberries on a cookie sheet and then place into a freezer storage bag;
- Blueberries spoil quickly if left at room temperature, but can be stored in the refrigerator for three days;
- Avoid containers that have juice stains on them, a sign the berries are crushed;
- Wrinkled fruit means they have been stored too long; while soft, watery fruit means the berries are overripe.
Following are recipes for blueberries from Jersey Fresh Cooks, a cookbook available at local farm markets. The recipes were submitted by Judy Harch of Mullica Hill and Richard Fitzgerald of Pennington:
Hot Milk Sponge Cake with Jersey Fresh Fruit
Jersey Fresh eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup of milk + 2 TBS butter, boiled together
and slightly cooled
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
In a mixer bowl, beat eggs and add sugar gradually. Beat well. Add vanilla. Mix boiled milk and butter with flour and baking powder alternately. Beat well. Place mixture into two greased and floured 8-inch or 9-inch pans (round or square). Bake at 350 degrees for 27-30 minutes. Cool and cover until ready to serve with fresh fruit topping.
Jersey Fresh Fruit Topping
4 cups Jersey Fresh strawberries, blueberries or peaches
½ cup sugar
1 cup water
Place prepared fruit in a large bowl. Make a simple syrup by boiling together: one cup of water with ½ cup of sugar. Boil for 5 minutes. This is equivalent to a light syrup found in canned fruits.* Set aside and allow to cool well. Add syrup to fresh fruit, refrigerate for at least 4 hours. This allows the fruit to release its natural juices into the syrup.
(* If you like your fruit sweeter, use 1 cup of water to 1 cup sugar for heavier syrup. Add fresh fruit topping to slices of cake. This cake absorbs fruit juices very well.)
Very Blueberry Cobbler
3 TBS unsalted butter, melted
½ cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ cup milk
2 cups Jersey Fresh blueberries
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tsp sugar (optional)
Use a 9-inch glass pie plate. Spread melted butter over the bottom. Cover the butter with the blueberries. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt and add milk. When blended, pour the batter over the blueberries. Optional: sprinkle sugar over the batter. Bake 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees or until top is nicely browned. Goes very well with vanilla ice cream.