The cool wet spring might have slowed the ripening of Oregon blueberries this year, but the appeal of the tasty fruit is picking up steam locally and internationally.Andy Porter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.
The arrival of warm weather is heating up the harvest of what could be a record-setting crop this year, allowing the industry to keep up with growing demand. Fresh berries are still a hit in Japan, but have great potential in the fast-growing economy of India and possibly South Korea.
"Blueberries remain the popular superfood in Asia," said Amanda Welker, international trade manager with the Oregon Department of Agriculture. "The health benefits are notorious and the flavor profile fits the Asian palate well. While blueberries have been popular in eastern Asia for quite some time, Indian consumers are just learning about the fruit and its health benefits."
India is a very small niche market right now, Welker said in a news release, but has room for exponential growth as that county's market matures.
"The benefit for Oregon is the timing of our season. We can offer a fresh fruit in the middle of India's hot and muggy summers when there is a lack of local fresh fruits in the market place," she said.
Fresh cultivated blueberry exports from the U.S. in 2009 reached 14,391 metric tons with a value of $64 million. Specific data for Oregon blueberries is not available, but export markets remain a key point of sale.
Oregon's blueberry production is predominately in the Willamette Valley, with Marion and Washington counties both having plantings in excess of a thousand acres, said Bruce Pokarney, ODA spokesman.
"In fact, more than 4,300 of the 5,700 acres in blueberry production are in the Willamette Valley," Pokarney said. "There is smaller production along the coast and Morrow County reports 400 acres in blueberries."
Umatilla County also has at least two farms growing blueberries with the closest to Walla Walla being Lampson Farms on Day Road near Milton-Freewater. The second is Golden Valley East in Stanfield, Ore.
Per capita consumption of blueberries has increased in recent years not only in North America, but in Europe and Asia largely because of the health benefits blueberries offer for both young and old.
In the 1990s, a Tufts University study showed blueberries to have higher antioxidant activity than all other fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants neutralize the effects of free radicals, those unstable compound molecules that can attack human cells and damage DNA. Additional studies and reports in the last decade continue to reinforce the berry's health value.
"Health benefits are the overriding reason for our market success," says St. Paul grower Doug Krahmer, member of the Oregon Blueberry Commission and State Board of Agriculture. "But health benefits alone won't sell fruit. Taste, convenience, and quality must be high for us to continue selling our fruit at a profitable price."
Prices have strengthened this year, compared to 2009. The demand is high, but so should be the supply.
"Barring unforeseen circumstances, we should easily break the 50 million pound mark for production, which would be a new record for Oregon blueberries," says Bryan Ostlund, administrator of the Oregon Blueberry Commission. "Fortunately, I think we have the markets to support that production."
Find a farm
Oregon blueberry farm locator: www.oregonblueberry.com/index.html
Lampson Farms, Milton-Freewater: www.lampsonblueberries.com
Washington blueberry farm locator: www.superblues.net
Blueberry Waldorf Salad
- 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen blueberries, divided
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups (about 4 ounces) baby spinach
- 1 tart apple (e.g. Granny Smith), cored and thinly sliced
- 2 ribs celery, cut into 1-1/2-inch matchsticks (about 1 cup)
- 1/3 cup pecan or walnut halves, toasted
To prepare dressing: In a blender container, combine1/2 cup of the blueberries, oil, marmalade, lemon juice, mustard and salt; blend until a smooth, thick dressing forms. In a bowl, toss spinach with apple slices, celery, pecans and remaining 1/2 cup blueberries. Arrange equally on four serving plates. Just before serving, blend dressing again until smooth; drizzle over the salads. Serve immediately.
Blueberry Cheesecake for Calorie Counters
- 3 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs
- 2 containers (6 ounces each) low-fat vanilla yogurt
- 1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
- 4 ounces fat-reduced cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 1/2 cup egg substitute
- Blueberry Sauce, recipe follows
Preheat oven to 350not;?F. Spray bottom and side of a 9-inch pie plate with vegetable cooking spray; sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs, and tilt to coat evenly. Place a coffee filter or two layers of paper towels in a strainer; stir 1 container of the yogurt and spoon it into the filter; set aside to drain, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a food processor, blend the remaining container of yogurt, cottage cheese, cream cheese and cornstarch until smooth. Add the eggs and pulse until combined. Carefully pour into the crumb-coated pie plate; smooth top. Bake until set in the center, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the Blueberry Sauce. When pie is set, spread the drained yogurt over the top; bake 5 minutes longer. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Chill until cold. Serve with Blueberry Sauce
- 2 cups blueberries
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon water
In a medium-size saucepan, over medium heat, stir blueberries with sugar (or granulated non-nutritive sweetner), lemon juice and water until berries are soft, about 5 minutes; chill.
Per Portion: Including 1-1/2 tablespoons blueberry sauce: 152 calories; 19 g carbohydrate; 4.5 g total fat (2.6 g saturated fat); 1 g fiber