Fresh or Frozen : Buy Local Blueberries
We often think fresh is always better than frozen. However, if you’re buying fruits and vegetables when they’re out of season, it means they weren’t grown locally, or even domestically. Instead, they’re shipped from places where local conditions allow them to grow. The longer these fruits and veggies sit in transit, at the grocery store or in your refrigerator, the fewer vitamins and nutrients they retain.
In Michigan, we’re lucky to be one of the largest producers of blueberries. This gives us an even stronger reason to strictly eat Michigan blueberries, no matter what the season is! Many farmers harvest at peak season and store their berries frozen for year-round purchasing and eating.
Pleasant Hill Farm in Fennville, MI is a perfect example of this. Located 5 miles from Lake Michigan, the shoreline provides a micro-climate with cool nights and mild days that produce flavorful fruit. The blueberry bushes thrive in peat soils that have benefited from over forty years of organic cultivation. The farm has been Certified Organic since 1977, and stocks frozen blueberries for purchase year-round.
Aside from eating frozen during the off seasons, another way to support locally grown berries is to check the sources on products featuring berries. “At the end of 2019, American blueberry growers were storing over 220 tons of blueberries in freezers, while over 180 tons of blueberries were imported from South America,” says Joan Donaldson of Pleasant Hill Farm. “Some of them were sold “fresh” at grocery stores, but many other tons were purchased by processors for jam or to repack into polybags and sell as frozen fruit. If a person wants to help local farmers survive, look for companies who still buy American fruit. In the case of our farm, for over 20 years we sold many tons of blueberries to a small family business. Now, they buy South American fruit because it costs much less than what we need to charge.”
Depending on the weather, Pleasant Hill’s blueberry season runs from around the 17th of July to the first weekend in August. “During the harvest season, we shake the berries off the bushes and within 24 hours, they are in a box being frozen. So, before you grab the clamshell from Peru, please consider buying a box of frozen berries from us. Support a local farmer and taste the difference!”
Head to the Farm
Pleasant Hill Farm also offers a You-Pick garden, where customers are able to come to the farm and harvest their own blueberries. If you like to pick your own, freeze them yourself! Most frozen fruit can be held for a year. Just a heads up, the taste and flavor of locally grown berries might trigger faster consumption!
Rebecca Henderson is the West Michigan Local Food Coordinator for Taste the Local Difference. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to find locally grown Michigan blueberries!