At over 800 British Columbian blueberry farms, teams are now out in the fields hand-picking the first berries of what promises to be an excellent season for industry and blueberry-lovers alike.
Harvest started about a week earlier than the past two years, and the first of the B.C. blueberry crop is already available in supermarkets, farmers’ markets and produce stores across the province. Referred to as “nature’s candy,” B.C. blueberries will be harvested until at least late September.
“This year’s crop is exceptional in both the quality of the fruit we’re seeing, and the size of the harvest,” said Debbie Etsell, executive director of the BC Blueberry Council. “Growing conditions were close to perfect this year, with such a sunny spring, and no extreme weather. That meant that a lot of fruit was pollinated.” So much fruit, in fact, that the Council is expecting that this year’s harvest of 68 million kilograms will be even larger than last year’s crop. The 2013 BC blueberry crop came in at over 55 million kilograms making British Columbia the largest highbush blueberry growing region in the world, with Canada ranking third as a country.
Along with being available at supermarkets, produce stores and farmers’ markets, B.C. blueberries can also be hand-picked by consumers at the many “u-pick” farms throughout British Columbia. Lists of blueberry farms offering both “u-pick”options and farm gate sales are included on the council’s website. “Going out and picking your own blueberries is a great way to spend an afternoon and start a new family tradition,” noted Etsell. Can’t get to a farm? Community events such as Kin’s Farm Market’s BC Blueberry Festival on August 2 are a great way to have fun with the healthy berries!
British Columbia’s best restaurant menus will again be awash in blue this year, offering plenty of ways to celebrate the season while at the table. One example is Edible Canada’s special B.C. Blueberry menu offered from mid-July through mid-August in their bistro on Granville Island. Items on the menu include a Canadian grain salad with fresh and dried blueberries, wild arugula, B.C. feta and cinnamon pecans; braised pork shank with whiskey blueberry jus, grilled tomato, creamy puffed wheat and pomme paille; and a blueberry and mascarpone ice cream served with crunchy hazelnuts.
The most popular way to enjoy B.C. blueberries is to simply grab a handful! But for those handy in the kitchen, the BCblueberry.com website has more than 100 recipes with creative and healthy ideas on how to use the berries – from nutritious breakfasts and traditional baking, through to salads, cocktails and ideas for the grill. For a delicious al fresco dinner, try Quick Blueberry Lamb Kebabs served alongside a Blueberry Margarita with Cucumber and Basil (recipe below). Get the kids involved in making the dessert with a cool and creamy No Bake Frozen Blueberry Pie.
BC. blueberry fans can keep informed about local restaurants, cafes and bakeries featuring baby blues on their summer menus via the BC Blueberries Facebook page. The page is a great resource for swapping recipes and photos, and learning about featured chefs’ favourites, fun facts and other news.
About the British Columbia Blueberry Council:
The British Columbia Blueberry Council represents over 800 blueberry growers, located in some of Canada’s most rich and fertile farmland. Plantings of premium quality highbush blueberries top 11,000 hectares in British Columbia and produce upwards of 55 million kilograms of blueberries annually. With more than $1 billion in sales in the past five years, Canada is the third largest national producer of sweet and juicy highbush blueberries in the world. Available fresh in B.C. from July through October, BC blueberries are also frozen, dried, juiced, puréed and powdered, available for year round-distribution throughout Canada and around the world.