While South Africa is relatively new to the blueberry game, we are already supplying several ever-growing international markets. According to the South African Berry Producers’ Association, blueberries account for almost 90% of all berry exports. The peak season for blueberry exports is from October to November. Blueberries are native to North America, but the crop is cultivated worldwide.

Globally, blueberry cultivation keeps growing rapidly. These berries used to be cultivated as an open-field crop, but it is becoming more intensive and modernised. Many new projects use hydroponic growing techniques. In South Africa, blueberries are commonly produced in tunnels or under netting to protect the delicate fruit.

Blueberries are often harvested by hand because they are so fragile. They can even be picked directly into the punnets in which they will be sold to reduce unnecessary handling that can cause bruising and affect shelf life.

Click here to read more about recent South African blueberry export trends

Choosing and storing blueberries

OZBlu, one of the major producers of blueberries locally and internationally, shares the following tips on choosing and storing blueberries:

  • When buying fresh blueberries, look for berries that are firm, dry, plump, and smooth with a pale, silvery surface coating and no leaves or stems.
  • Avoid blueberries that look soft, shrivelled, bruised or mouldy.
  • Refrigerate fresh blueberries either in their original packaging or in a covered bowl or container.
  • Only wash your blueberries right before you eat them or cook with them. Their pale, whitish coating is a natural wax that acts as a protective barrier against insects and bacteria.
  • Fresh berries should be eaten within ten days of purchase.

Health benefits and other uses

Blueberries are one of the most nutrient-dense berries. These tiny blue powerhouses are rich in antioxidants, vitamins C and K, as well as the essential mineral manganese. They are also low in calories and high in fibre. Like cranberries, which are in the same berry family, blueberries can help prevent and improve bladder infections.

Blueberries can be processed to make a variety of delicious products and are commonly made into jam and juice. These berries are also popular in baked goods such as muffins and cheesecake. In addition, they are a welcome accompaniment to smoothies or yoghurt products.

Health benefits and other uses

Blueberries are one of the most nutrient dense berries. These tiny blue powerhouses are rich in antioxidants, vitamins C and K, as well as the essential mineral manganese. They are also low in calories and high in fibre. Like cranberries, which are in the same berry family, blueberries can help prevent and improve bladder infections.

Blueberries can be processed to make a variety of delicious products and are commonly made into jam and juice. These berries are also popular in baked goods such as muffins and cheesecake. In addition, they are a welcome accompaniment to smoothies or yoghurt products.

Naughty or nutritious

If you have some blueberries in your fridge, why not try one of these naughty or nutritious recipes.

No-bake blueberry cheesecake

Ingredients

200g Tennis biscuits
125g melted butter
250g cream cheese at room temperature
1 cup heavy cream
1¼ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen
3 tbs water
2 tsp lemon juice

Method

  1. First, make a compote by adding one of the cups of blueberries to a small pot with the water, ¼ cup sugar
  2. and lemon juice.
  3. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes and then add the rest of the berries.
  4. Cook for another 8 minutes and stir frequently. Place in the fridge to cool down completely.
  5. Crush the biscuits in a food processor or blender until they form fine crumbs.
  6. Pour the melted butter into the processor and pulse until it is incorporated with the crumbs.
  7. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a springform pan.
  8. Refrigerate the crust until firm.
  9. In the meantime, prepare the cheesecake by combining the cream cheese, cream, the rest of the sugar, and vanilla in a bowl.
  10. Beat with a mixer until creamy and stiff.
  11. Pour the cream cheese mixture onto the crust and spread until even.
  12. Put it in the fridge for at least two hours.
  13. Top with cold compote before serving.

Overnight oats

Ingredients

1 handful of blueberries
1 sliced banana
½ cup yoghurt
½ cup oats
1 tbs chia seeds
2 tbs honey

Method

  1. Put the raw oats into a glass jar and add a layer of yoghurt on top, followed by a layer of honey and chia seeds.
  2. Add the sliced banana and top it all off with the berries.
  3. Place a lid on the jar and leave it overnight (the oats will soften). In the morning, stir the oats and enjoy.

Compiled by Ursula Human, Agriorbit.