1 This is my long blueberry pergola, which is located near my Equipment Shed, next to my grove of quince trees. It's covered with netting to keep birds from eating the berries.
2 These posts are 18th century Chinese granite uprights. I've used them all over the farm including the clematis pergola, my apple espaliers, and to support my raspberry bushes.
3 Blueberries are the most popular berry for eating after strawberries.
4 They are high in fiber, high in vitamin-C, and have one of the highest antioxidant capacities among all fruits, vegetables, spices, and seasonings.
5 Blueberries, cranberries, and concord grapes are the only three fruits native to North America. I grow many varieties, including 'Bluegold', 'Chandler', 'Darrow', 'Jersey', and 'Patriot'.
6 My longtime housekeeper, Laura Acuna, likes to pick berries using little berry boxes and then move them into larger buckets, bins or trays.
7 In general, blueberries are about 5-16 millimeters large with a flared crown at the end. They are pale greenish at first, and then reddish purple and finally dark purple-blue when ripe for picking.
8 They are also covered in a protective powdery epicuticular wax known as the "bloom".
9 When harvesting the fruits, select plump, full berries with a light gray-blue color. A berry with a hint of red is not fully ripened.
10 Blueberries don't actually reach their full flavor until a few days after they turn blue, so a tip to know which ones are the best is to tickle the bunches lightly - only the true ripe ones will fall into your hand.
11 After the first few years, prune the blueberry bushes annually to remove spindly or dead twigs, and any branches with berries that may touch the ground.
12 Blueberry bushes are resistant to most pests and diseases, and can produce berries for up to 20-years.
13 Blueberry bushes typically bear fruit in the middle of a growing season, in July, the peak of its harvest during National Blueberry month.
14 After they are picked, blueberries can be stored unwashed for a few days in the refrigerator.
15 Blueberries also freeze very well and once defrosted, can be used identically to fresh berries in almost any way. I like to freeze them first in single layers on cookie sheets, then move them to plastic bags - this keeps the berries from getting crushed.
16 I've been growing currants, Ribes rubrum, for many years - they're great for jams, jellies, tarts and pies, and they're high in vitamin-C, and are a good source of calcium and iron.
17 Here at my farm, the currant bushes are located outside the front entrance of my main greenhouse.
18 I grow red, black and white currants. Red currants can range from deep red to pink to almost yellow in color.
19 These red currant bushes are very dependable and vigorous as growers. The fruits need to be picked quickly before they drop to the ground, or get snatched up by the birds.
20 The fruits grow in clusters called racemes, and are very easy to pick. The best time to harvest red currants is when the fruits are firm and juicy.
21 When grown, red currants should be trained as open-centered bushes, with enough room to spread, so light and air can flow freely around the branches.
22 The varieties that I grow include 'Redstart' and 'Jonkheer Van Tets' - both produce very bright, red fruits.
23 The English word "currant" has been used to describe this fruit since the 16th century. It was taken from the fruit's resemblance to the dried currants of Greece, which are raisins made from a small seedless grape.
24 Black currant, Ribes nigrum, is a woody shrub grown for its piquant berries. You can't miss them in the garden - they are very aromatic.
25 The best time to pick black currants is when they are dry and ripe. The varieties of black currants in my garden include 'Ben Sarek' and 'Ben Lomond.'
26 Black currants are the most nutrient-rich of the currants. They are high in vitamins A, C, B1, B5, B6, phytochemicals and antioxidants. They are also high in minerals, such as iron, copper, calcium and phosphorous. They can be eaten raw, but are usually cooked in a variety of sweet and savory dishes.
27 Black currants are also used in various alcoholic mixtures, such as the French liqueur, creme de cassis.
28 White currants are the sweetest of the currant colors - sweet, and tart with floral undertones. Although the fruits are the primary source of food from the plant, the leaves and tender, young shoots are also edible.
29 White currants, 'Blanka', are a sub-cultivar of the red currant. White currant berries are translucent with warm white tones and a slight pink blush color.
30 These white currants add flavor and texture to sauces, liquors, jams, jellies and syrups.
31 Sanu and Laura prefer to pick berries early in the morning before it gets too warm.
32 'Pink Champagne' currants are pendant clusters of fruits the color of champagne blushed with pink. These currants are less tart than the red, and also sweet.
33 Although they may be eaten ripe off the shrub, pink currants are more often harvested for use in jams, jellies, and pies.
34 Currants are still largely unknown here in the United States. They are well-loved in many other countries, and here in the US, they are slowly gaining popularity, especially because of the high antioxidant content. They are now more prevalent at local farms and home gardens.
35 After each batch of currants is picked, Laura and Sanu gently take each fruit off its long-stem.
36 Then, they're spread out onto flat baking sheets in single layers. Once they are frozen solid, they're moved to freezer bags or containers and then back into the freezer with the other berries.