Don't let those blue berries get you down
I love blueberries! I eat them by the handfuls and when I see a chance to get fresh, organic blueberries, I buy them in bulk and freeze them so I can enjoy them all year round. I love them so much I tried year after year to grow them myself in my garden but alas, I was always disappointed. We just don't have the acidic soil for them to grow here. So did I give up? NO! I found alternatives that would grow in North Central Minnesota.
I researched and found 2 alternatives for blueberries that would work in my zone 3/4 region, #Honeyberry and #Serviceberry.
I knew Honeyberries would be successful here when I learned they were native to Siberia; if they can survive there, they can survive here. They are from the honeysuckle family and adapt well with few pests. This bush produces small yellow flowers that hide in the branches in early spring. Sometimes I worry that it is still to cold for the bees to pollinate; but I always get fruit. They produce small, oblong deep purple blue fruits that ripen a little before the strawberries. I am picking mine right now, though I could have given them a few more days to sweeten them up. The birds love the berries and will eat them all in one night if you don't cover them, I learned that the hard way.
The berry is high in antioxidants and Vitamins A and C and Potassium and has a unique flavor. Some say they taste like blueberries, but I think they are unique. I have enough berries this year I am going to try honeyberry jam. Yum! I find the harvest is better if there are at least 2 honeyberry bushes for cross pollination, but not necessary if you don't have room. Just buy a variety that is self pollinating. They grow well in sun or shade but if in full sun on a southern exposure, you will find the leaves looking curled and brown as summer progresses. They are sensitive to sun and wind burn so think carefully about where to place them as they are good for 50 years in providing nutritious fruit.
Serviceberries are smaller blue berries that more closely resemble blueberries. This bush spreads, so make room, and the rabbits LOVE to eat the stems. Personally, I put chicken wire around my service berry every winter and early spring to keep the rabbits off of it.
This bush prefers a sunny to part sunny location. In spring, the bush produces large clumps of white flowers and is very showy and fragrant. The berries take longer to ripen than the honeyberry. As you can see, as of today, the fruit is still small and green. The fruit does not get as big and juicy as a blueberry, but it is a good alternative. I usually eat these raw or in a bowl of cereal or ice cream.
Do you love blueberries as well? Have you grown either of these? I really enjoy them in my landscaping.