History is made again this year at Eckert’s! For the first time ever, Eckert’s has planted Blueberries. It will take two full years until the newly planted bushes are able to produce any berries. We currently have three different varieties planted including Duke, Bluejay and Toro. The Duke variety of blueberries is the earliest to ripen (late June/early July)! If you prefer size over sweetness, the larger Duke Blueberry variety is best. Its sour taste makes it the best variety for baking! Our midseason berry is called Bluejay, and ripens the first of July to the Middle of July. The Bluejay berries are a medium to large size and the berry quality is firm. The Toro variety along with all of our other varieties is a Northern High Bush variety. Northern High Bush means that these types of bushes need a high amount of “chill hours” to get their fruit set. Chill hours are an accumulation of hours where temperatures reach between 30 degrees F to 45 degrees F. If these Northern High Bush varieties do not get the required number of chill hours they may not yield fruit. This Northern High Bush variety is perfect for our sometimes unpredictable Belleville weather! It’s no secret that we have bitter cold winters in this area, but this type of blueberry bush is perfectly suited to handle these types of condidtions, and the cold weather even helps with the production of berries.
In order to give our blueberry bushes the best growing environment possible, we first had to add sulfur to the soil until the ph balance was 4.5, this is unusual because for most other crops, the soil does not require such a high ph balance. Mulch also needed to be incorporated into the bed where the bushes were planted, and wood chips placed over the top. Blueberry bushes need soil that retains moisture, but also is drained really well. Eckert’s had to place irrigation systems into this particular field to ensure that the moisture of the soil would be precise.
We are very excited to begin our journey into blueberries! Blueberries are a great fruit to pick because it is so easy for our customers to do! Blueberry bushes do not have any thorns so you can just dive right in and get to pickin’! No need to kneel since they are at least knee high, just choose the berry that catches your eye, and pinch off at the stem. When picking your berries, take notice of their size. Smaller berries often have more flavor than larger berries because the taste of larger berries is sometimes diluted by the water they store. When picking you should always look for plump, dark berries! The wait for Blueberries is well worth it, and we look forward to picking Blueberries with you!