Happy National Blueberry Month, everyone! 2019 marks 113 year since the blueberries we know today were domesticated. Although, the idea of domesticating the little blue dynamos originated in 1893, the brainchild of Elizabeth Coleman White. White was the daughter of cranberry farmers from Whitesbog, New Jersey. She, along with USDA botanist Frederick Colville, began experimenting with blueberry propagation and cultivation in 1911 on White’s family farms.
By 1912, the first field plantings had grown in successfully, and in another four years, 1916, White and Colville introduced the highbush blueberries to the commercial market. Over the next fifty years, blueberry seedlings would be planted and grown across the country and beyond.
In 1932, the state of New Jersey awarded Elizabeth White for her “outstanding contributions to agriculture”, and in 1966, the “Elizabeth” variety of blueberry was named for her. Blueberries continued to grow in popularity and in 1974, the USDA named July “National Blueberry Month”. Scientists and botanists further researched blueberries and found they were an excellent source of antioxidants, securing the blueberry’s place as a health food.
New Jersey finally declared the blueberry the state berry in 2003, nearly 90 years after its domestication. In 2011, blueberries were planted in the White House garden and by 2012, blueberries were being used in over 4,000 different products. By 2014, approximately 1 billion pounds of blueberries were produced over five continents.
If you’re a true blueberry fan, check out the Whitesbog Historic Village in Whitesbog, New Jersey. You can explore the Cranberry and Blueberry Museum, watch a living history event, stroll through the trails and gardens, or visit the General Store for all manner of blueberry goodness! Get more information from whitesbog.org.
Until next time, I’m Archivist Ashe!