Wild berries are important source of food for birds and other wild animals and native people enjoyed them long before the first Europeans discovered North America.
This fruit was used by the Indians to make pemmican, which is prepared by mixing sun or wind-dried strips of meat with melted fat and various types of berries.
French explorer, Samuel de Champlain, found native people gathering wild blueberries for use during the winter months.
Native people originally harvested the berry where they grew naturally, that is in treeless barrens or where forested areas had been burned over after lighting strikes. Later, some tribes, encouraged continuing production by deliberately setting fire to favorite picking areas and this method of pruning resulted in improved growth and increased yield of fruit.
During the 17th century, settlers from England arrived in the New World to begin colonies. In winter of 1620, the pilgrims established a settlement at Plymouth. Their neighbors, the Wampanoag Indians, taught the settler new skills that helped them survive.
The colonist learned how to gather blueberries, dry under the summer’s sun and store them for the winter.
The early settlers began to harvest the fruit for their own use after the manner of the native people. Americans began to consume greater amounts of blueberries after the supply of sugar increased sharply in the latter part of the 18th century, when the fruit became a popular ingredient of jams, jellies, pies and tarts.
The cultivation of blueberries in the United States was initiated in 1906 by Dr. F. V. Coville, a botanist in the US Department of Agriculture. He elected wild highbush berry plants from New Hampshire and New Jersey for his experiments.
The first commercial shipments of blueberries were made in 1916, and the production and utilization of this fruit has increased steadily since then.
Blueberries in United States