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Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Blueberry - 'Cyanococcus vaccinium' - fam: Ericaceae

Blueberries are perennial flowering plants, with indigo-colored berries, from the section Cyanococcus, within the genus Vaccinium, a genus that also includes cranberries, bilberries and grouseberries.

Species in the section Cyanococcus, are the most common fruits sold as "blueberries" and are native to North America - commercially cultivated highbush blueberries were not introduced into Europe until the 1930s.

Blueberries are usually erect, prostrate shrubs, that can vary in size from 10 centimeters (3.9 in) to 4 meters (13 ft) in height. In the commercial production of blueberries, the smaller species are known as "low-bush blueberries", (synonymous with "wild"), while the larger species are known as "high-bush blueberries".

The leaves can be either deciduous or evergreen, ovate to lanceolate, and 1–8 cm (0.39–3.15 in) long, and 0.5–3.5 cm (0.20–1.38 in) broad. The flowers are bell-shaped, white, pale pink or red, sometimes tinged greenish. The fruit is a berry 5–16 millimeters (0.20–0.63 in) in diameter with a flared crown at the end; they are pale greenish at first, then reddish-purple, and finally dark purple when ripe. They are covered in a protective coating of powdery epicuticular wax, colloquially known as the "bloom". They have a sweet taste when mature, with variable acidity. 1

Despite their long-held popularity in North America, blueberries were slow to take off in Australia. The first attempt to grow them was in the early 1950s, by Karel Kroon and Ralph Proctor, from the Victorian Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately, they had little success.

Two decades later, the Victorian Department of Agriculture decided to try again. This time, David Jones successfully grew several blueberry plants; and his work was carried on by Ridley Bell and Margaret Tucker. Their dedication and enthusiasm towards the creation of an Australian blueberry industry saw the formation of the Australian Blueberry Growers' Association (ABGA) in the mid 1970s.

In the 1980s, the general public began to demand more blueberries, and more sophisticated growing and cultivation techniques were introduced. Since then, commercial production has taken off and the industry has never looked back.

Today, Australian blueberries are prized for their premium quality, delicious flavour, and consistency in size. 2

REFERENCE: 1 - Wikipedia - Blueberry... and, 2 - Australian Blueberries - History.


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