Abundant, flavorful blueberry crop ripening in N.J.

 Courtesy of DiMeo Blueberry Farms in Hammonton, N.J.)

Courtesy of DiMeo Blueberry Farms in Hammonton, N.J.)

New Jersey growers say the state is having one of its best blueberry seasons in years.

The berries are abundant, but they are smaller this year because the growing season has been relatively dry, according to Anthony DiMeo III who runs family-owned blueberry farms in Hammonton.

“Last year, we had larger blueberries because of all the rain, but a larger blueberry is a blueberry that’s absorbed a lot of water. And a blueberry that’s absorbed a lot of water is not one that tends to taste as flavorful, the sugar content is not as high,” he said. “So a smaller blueberry is actually a great thing for taste and flavor.”

The fierce winter delayed the blueberry crop by about three weeks, but DiMeo said he expects Jersey-grown berries will be available at least until the middle of August.

Most of that crop will stay in the country. But DiMeo said New Jersey farmers may begin to export their crops to other countries where demand is increasing.

“Blueberry demand is really growing especially in parts of Asia where they can now afford to import blueberries from the United States,” he said. “I expect that the demand for blueberries over the next 10 years to triple as the direct result of the demand from countries like China and India.”

New Jersey is one of the country’s biggest blueberry producers, but there aren’t that many growers, said Peter Furey, executive director of the New Jersey Farm Bureau.

“We don’t have hundreds of blueberry farmers the way we would have hundreds of tomato farmers, but those blueberry establishments are fairly large, and the value of their crop is fairly significant,” he said.

This year’s crop is estimated to be worth between $70 million and $80 million.

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