Published on Jan 6, 2020

Blueberries Background Images

License Info: Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC

The blueberry of the genus Vaccinium, is a native American species. In fact the blueberry is a fruit that is a North America native plant. It has a long history of use because of its taste, nutrition, and health benefits. Blueberries were in use when the first settlers arrived from Europe. In their diaries early explorers recorded that Wild Blueberries were in use by the native American Indians and the early settlers also recognized that this berry had many uses and was important for nutrition and in keeping them well.

Early Use Among Indians, Pilgrims And Military

In 1615, Samuel de Champlain observed Indians in the Lake Huron area harvesting Wild Blueberries along Lake Huron. The Indians used blueberries for food and medicine, and held the blueberries in very high regard. In addition to eating them fresh, the blueberries were cooked in various foods. A favorite dish of the Native Americans during colonial times was a simple pudding called “Sautauthig”, It was made with dried, crushed blueberries, dried cracked corn, honey and water. The Pilgrims loved Sautauthig and it is believed that it was part of the first Thanksgiving feast.

Lewis and Clark, while on their expedition (1804-1806) to the Pacific Coast found that Indians preserved Wild Blueberries by smoking them for winter use. A meal was served to them by the Indians into which Wild Blueberries was pounded. After pounding wild blueberries into the meat it was then smoked and dried to preserve it for later use. In the later part of the 18th century blueberries became a popular ingredient in jams, jellies, pies and tarts.


During the Civil War soldiers drank a blueberry beverage reported to improve their health. The first commercial venture with blueberries involved canning Wild Blueberries for the military.

Blueberry Domestication

The cultivation and domestication of blueberries’ in the United States was initiated in 1906 by Dr. F.V. Colville, a botanist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who selected wild highbush blueberry plants from his farm in New Hampshire and later from new Jersey when he started working with Miss Elizabeth White from New Jersey. He started studying wild blueberries and looking for out outstanding plants for use in his breeding program. The first plants were plants on his home farm in New Hampshire. In 1909 he began cross breeding different varieties of blueberries in order to obtain higher yields and sweeter berries. In 1911 Elizabeth Coleman White, (1871-1954) in New Jersey, learned of his research and recognized its potential and developed a long collaboration with Dr. F.V. Coville which resulted in her conducting experiments on her own.

She established the first commercial blueberry planting in America. She devoted herself to the study and breeding of blueberries. She had her pickers and others to look for extraordinarily fine wild blueberry bushes for Dr. Coville’s research to develop improved varieties of blueberry plants. Dr. F.V. Coville made crosses among the various plants. It was during this time that a wild blue that is still popular today was discovered. It is Rubel, a self-pollinating native from New Jersey Identified in 1911 from a wild plant. Rubel is one of the oldest varieties still in use because of its exceptionally high level of antioxidants and its small fruit size making it ideal for use in pastries. In 1916, Coville and White produced the first commercial crop of blueberries. The first commercial shipments of blueberries were made in 1916, and there has been a steady increase in production since that time.

In 1937, (Dr. George Darrow) from Vermont took over the USDA blueberry breeding program and continued this research enlisting private growers to test out new varieties in their fields. Many new varieties were developed and tested. Between 1946 and 1962, he supplied plants to whose cooperating in this effort to 13 states.
This activity of developing new varieties is now common place in many states. Many southern varieties have been developed. Blueberries can now commercially be grown throughout the United States. In the south a southern variety called rabbiteye blueberries are grown and many new releases have been made by the USDA. Many of these blueberry rabbiteye species have been inter-hybridized with northern highbush blueberries to make southern highbush blueberry plants that are suited for growing in the southern part of the U.S..

National Blueberry Month

On May 8, 1999 the United States Department of Agriculture proclaimed July as the National Blueberry Month. Blueberries were grown in 35 states, and at that time the US blueberries accounted for over 90% of all the blueberries produced in the world.

In a ceremony on Monday, 12 January 2004, Governor McGreevey signed the law naming the blueberry as New Jersey’s state fruit. As of that date New Jersey was producing 22% of the nation’s blueberries.

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