Vaccinium / Blueberry / Lingonberry
Easy, delicious, and extremely nutritious
The genus Vaccinium contains a wide variety of perennial shrubs that bloom in small flowers followed by sweet or tart berries, with blueberries being the most popular and widely grown, followed by cranberries, lingonberries, and huckleberries. Bilberries and other Vaccinium species may soon be readily available. These berries are considered superfoods due to their high levels of antioxidant phytonutrients and anti-inflammatory properties. Berry bushes not only produce abundant crops of nutritious and delicious berries but also offer ornamental value with their colorful leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits. Most blueberry bushes exhibit fall color, and many have stems that turn red in winter. In fact, some varieties are grown primarily for their ornamental qualities, and can offer year-round interest.
Vaccinium is a genus of about 450 species with creeping or erect habits, ranging in size from 6 inches tall to 12 feet tall, with a similar width. The shrubs can be evergreen or deciduous, with most being highly productive. Some commonly cultivated species of blueberries include V. corymbosum (highbush blueberry); V. angustifolium (lowbush blueberry); and V. virgatum (rabbiteye blueberry; syn. V. ashei), along with many hybrids of highbush x lowbush (half-highs). Other important and/or up-and-coming Vaccinium species include V. macrocarpon (American cranberry, large cranberry); V. oxycoccos (small-fruited, or northern, cranberry); V. vitis-idaea (lingonberry, cowberry, red whortleberry, mountain cranberry), thought to be a cranberry-blueberry intermediate; V. glauco album (Himalayan huckleberry); V. ovatum (California huckleberry, evergreen huckleberry); and V. myrtillus (dwarf bilberry, whortleberry).
These ornamental edibles are easy to grow. Plants grown for fruit production need at least 6 hours of full sun a day and perform best in organically rich, acidic soil. Planting early, mid-season, and late-season varieties extends berry season throughout the summer.