Over the past week, I had some interesting conversations about growing blueberry bushes at home with Roxane Kapitan, landscape manager of Oakleaf Landscape, and Susan Murphy of Murphy Blueberry Farm.
“Blueberries, unlike other edible crops, have to be at a low pH level of 4.5. If you’re creating a new bed, it’s important not to mix your substrates,” Kapitan told me.
Both Kapitan and Murphy said that the best time to start a blueberry bush is in the fall. Kapitan recommended prepping the soil for blueberry planting during the summer, and testing the soil with a pH test, which can be found at Vineyard Gardens for $9.95.
“The best time to plant is in the fall. You have to have two different [blueberry] varieties to get cross-pollination, because they won’t pollinate,” Murphy said. “Pollinators are insects and the wind for blueberry bushes. The bush blossoms for the pollinators, and the fruit forms, and wait until they turn blue, and that is when you cover them.”
During the ripening process, the blueberries turn blue over a period of 10 days, with competition from the local bird population. Murphy said the longer the blueberries stay on the bush, the sweeter they will be. Kapitan and Murphy suggested setting up a cage around a blueberry bush and covering it with permeable fabrics like crinoline or nylon to keep the birds off and still let the sun in.
Kapitan says that any place on the Island is good to grow blueberries, as long as you have the correct pH levels, peat moss, and six hours of sun per day. Growing blueberries takes time, but will save you money in the end, keeping you from buying blueberries from grocery stores. I baked a blueberry cobbler over the Juneteenth weekend. The recipe I used came from the website Tastes Better from Scratch, and my focus was to make a gluten-free and dairy-free mixture for the batter and still get a scrumptious brown topping. However, the gluten-free mix would sink to the bottom of the baking dish and refuse to brown. I had to switch back to regular flour and dairy ingredients to get the right consistency and texture for the brown cobbler topping.
6 Tbsp. butter
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
1¼ cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup milk
Preheat the oven to 350°. Measure the butter into a clear baking dish. Meanwhile, add the blueberries, half a cup of sugar, and lemon juice into a medium-size mixing bowl and stir until combined. Once the butter evenly coats the dish, remove the baking dish from the oven.
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, milk, and the other half a cup of sugar in a separate bowl. Once blended, the batter will be thick and have to be scooped.
Add the blueberry mixture into the buttered baking dish, and scoop the batter over the blueberries. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the batter turns crispy brown. Remove from the oven and let the cobbler cool. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. I went for nothing extra, and enjoyed the cobbler, tasting the rich flavor of light sugar among the blueberries.