You can buy fresh Australian blueberries from July to April each year, thanks to the geographic spread of our blueberry farms and the increasingly sophisticated cultivation techniques these farms use.
From field to fridge in 24 hours
Ever wondered about a blueberry’s journey to your door? How long since it was basking in glorious sunshine in an open field?
In many cases, the blueberries in your hands today may have been in that field yesterday somewhere in regional Australia. It’s an incredible journey – made even more so because blueberries must be gently hand-picked and treated with extra special care.
The Australian Blueberry Growers’ Association works hard to ensure the most plump, juicy and fresh blueberries are delivered to your local supermarket or fresh produce market each day.
Here’s how they do it.
New blueberry plants are grown from small cuttings taken from established bushes. These cuttings are planted in trays, which are placed in fog houses for the first couple of months – where the plants bask in warmth and humidity, and get off to a strong start.
Once the cuttings have developed good roots, they are replanted into larger pots. For the next three months, these small blueberry plants require plenty of TLC – full sun, daily watering, and a weekly dose of fertiliser.
After about five months, when the plants are about 30cm tall, they are ready to head out into the open field. The grower typically spaces the bushes 1 metre apart in long rows.
Being the delicate little morsels they are, blueberries must be carefully hand-picked by people who know how to spot a perfectly ripe blueberry. Depending on the variety, most bushes are picked every 5 to 7 days. During peak harvest, farms require many extra pickers to cope with the large number of ripe blueberries.
From the field, the blueberries travel via picking crates to the air conditioned packing shed. Here, they are carefully inspected for fruit quality and transferred into clamshell punnets. Only the plumpest and largest blueberries pass the quality test. Fruit unfit for sale is removed.
The blueberry punnets are individually weighed to ensure they contain exactly the right amount of blueberries, and are then packed into cardboard trays and cooled to 4 degrees. From here, they are loaded onto a refrigerated truck to ensure they arrive at their destination just as fresh as when they were picked.
These trucks could be headed for wholesale markets in capital cities, independent fruit shops, supermarket distribution centres – or even the airport where they are air freighted to Asia, Europe and America.
All this happens within 24 hours of picking… so you can enjoy the freshest blueberries that Australia has to offer!