Where did blueberries come from? I don’t remember ever eating them – or even seeing them – as a child. Now it seems that those little, pricey boxes of dark blue berries are available in every supermarket, year round. I don’t know when they arrived in the UK, but I only discovered them when I had children. Kids seem to love blueberries. Can’t get enough of ’em. Which is great – the more fruit, the better, and all that. But it didn’t seem so great in terms of food miles. Only a tiny percentage of blueberries are grown in the UK; more often, they have been air-freighted thousands of miles – often from the US or South America. Perhaps as a result, they often seemed to go mouldy before I’d closed the fridge door on them.
So, for my birthday this year, I was very excited to get two lovely blueberry bushes (two varieties, to help with pollination), already covered in little white bell-shaped flowers. They need acid soil (which I don’t have), so back in the spring the kids helped me plant them out in ericaceous compost in a couple of large pots. Then I watched, as the spring – and then summer – turned to sodden mush. Wind and water battered the little bell-flowers, and I didn’t hold out much hope. But – lo and behold – a whole flush of tiny green berries appeared. Gradually, slowly, over the chilly weeks, they have turned greenish-purple, then blue, then dark blue. Proper blueberries! They do seem to be like crack to birds – after we’d caught the blackbird raiding the bushes yet again, and the morehen actually climbing into the pots, we decided to net them. Normally I’m happy to share (at least a bit) with our avian friends, but those berries were too precious.
This week, finally, joyously, the kids and I had our own harvest festival. We hoiked up the netting, rummaged about a bit and, hey presto, two (small) bowls of home-grown blueberries. They tasted – well, fresh; not as sweet as some I’ve had from the super-market, but juicy and good. We ate them. There’s at least another few helpings ripening up nicely. The question is, can we now wean ourselves off blueberries in mid-winter, and make ourselves wait, and wait, for those few bowlfuls to come round again next year. If we can, I’m sure they’ll taste all the sweeter. Not sure the kids are convinced, tho.