Bumper crop of blueberries in NJ

June 24, 2011 4:33:21 PM PDT
They're big, blue and juicy and now is their time of year!

Blueberries, like cranberries, thrive in the acid soil of the Pinelands. Because of the wet spring this year's crop has come in early and looks good.

"They're plentiful. This year we have fabulous, big, juicy delicious ones," said Susan Phillips of Whitesbog Preservation Trust.

This weekend two festivals will celebrate the blueberry. One will be held Saturday in Whitesbog Village and one will be held Sunday in Hammonton, which bills itself the unofficial Blueberry Capital of the World.

"Historic Whitesbog Village is the birthplace of the blueberry with Elizabeth? Coleman White and Dr. Frederick Coleville," said Jeanne Streiter of Whitesbog Preservation Trust, referring to the pair who created the first commercially developed blueberries in the early 1900s.

In addition to music, crafts and fun for the kids, blueberry products will abound. That includes preserves, juice, chocolate covered berries and.... did you know there's even such?a thing as blueberry honey?

? "Each variety has its own taste, its own amount of juicy pulp and they're variable in?their size, their color and it's hard for me to really pick one," said Ginette Pompeo of Toms River.

"I love 'em. They're good, they're excellent, especially in a pie and a little vanilla ice cream," said Fred Clayton of Toms River.

Blueberries are big business in New Jersey. There are almost 300 farms growing a crop worth over $62 million and 95% of all the blueberries produced in New Jersey are grown in Burlington and Atlantic counties.

At Farmer Jack's stand on Route 38 in Southampton, they keep the supply coming. The demand is there and they are moving fast.

"A lot of people are coming in, they're excited to see they're already in and they have great flavor so far so, I think, it's going to be a good year for blueberries," said Hillary Richards of Farmer Jack's.

? Native Americans told the early settlers of the medicinal benefits of blueberries. Indeed, modern-day researchers say they contain high levels of antioxidants, which help protect against various diseases like cancer.

That's a benefit, of course, but some people just like them just because they taste good.