It’s That Time of Year Again to Enjoy This Very NJ Treat
Blueberry season in New Jersey usually begins mid to late June with July as the peak. The season can, however, run through August depending on what breed of blueberries a farm grows.
Troy Wojtaszek, owner and operator of Clement Blueberry Farm in Pemberton said there are plenty of U-pick farms, like his, across the state growing and picking blueberries this season.
Clement Blueberry Farm opens June 24.
Blueberries love a lot of sun, an abundant supply of soil moisture, and sandy, acidic soil so anywhere in and around the Pine Barrens is a great place for them, Wojtaszek. In fact, The Pine Barrens are littered with wild blueberries.
When picking blueberries, he said to make sure they are a deep blue color.
“The way I like to find out if they’re really ripe is that I take a handful and taste them. If they’re a little too sour, then I know they’re not ready yet. But if you’ve got some sweet in with that sour, then they’re definitely ready,” Wojtaszek said.
Jersey fresh blueberries should arrive on store shelves in the next week or two, he said. While the crop is a fan favorite here in the Garden State, blueberries are shipped out of state, as well.
Wojtaszek said blueberries are sent to states across the nation including California and Washington. They are also shipped abroad to other countries.
The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council is always looking to expand the market, he said. They just got access to China, Vietnam, and the Philippines, as well.
So, what makes a New Jersey blueberry “New Jersey”? Wojtaszek said hands down, it’s the history.
Blueberry farming was born in New Jersey.
It started in 1906 when a scientist, Doctor Frederick Coville started experimenting to create a better blueberry, according to the blueberry story at www.nj.gov.
The daughter of a cranberry farmer, Elizabeth White invited him to conduct experiments on her father’s farm. She was interested in finding a kind of blueberry that would produce large berries which could be grown on her father’s farm, Whitesbog (located 15 minutes from Clement Blueberry Farm) in Pemberton.
She encouraged people to go out and look for bushes with large berries. White offered cash rewards for the largest berries and would name the bushes after the finder.
In 1916, the first crop of cultivated blueberries was produced for sale. White improved the packing process for fresh fruit by being the first to use clear cellophane to protect the fruit.
Hammonton, New Jersey has been coined “the blueberry capital of the world” because 80 percent of New Jersey’s blueberries come from Atlantic County’s 56 farms, which are located either in or directly around Hammonton.
The blueberry became the official state fruit in 2004 after fourth-graders at Veterans Memorial Elementary School in Brick campaigned a year earlier to make the blueberry the official fruit of New Jersey.
“New Jersey blueberry farms take a lot of pride in that history. We are the pioneers of the industry. All of that combined leads to great quality, taste, and most importantly the consistency of both of those,” Wojtaszek said.
For people in the Garden State, those blueberries don’t have to travel far when they arrive on store shelves. So, they are almost as fresh as going to a pick-your-own farm and plucking them right off the bush itself, he added.
“Simply put, you can bet that anytime you grab blueberries off the shelves that say New Jersey on them, they are going to be some of the best blueberries out there across the entire world,” Wojtaszek said.