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The Cultural Connection
Your newsletter companion to The Cultural Traveler
A Berry Unusual Summer
The 2020 summer season is in full swing – but this summer is unlike any other. Social meetups, family reunions, picnics in the park, and festivals have been disrupted, cancelled, or pushed online. But, there is still plenty to enjoy.

One way to take advantage of summer is to enjoy all of the fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables. One fruit is synonymous with summer, the blueberry. 

Whether you pick up a pint from your local grocery store, stop at a local roadside farm stand, or frequent a neighborhood farmers' market, blueberries can complement every course of the menu by putting a little taste of summer on your plate.  From pies and preserves, to grilling sauces, salads, and refreshing beverages, the blueberry offers something for every age and palette.  Let’s look more closely at the blueberry and its place in our national culture.
BLUEBERRIES: THEIR PLACE IN HISTORY
Blueberries are native to North America, whether lowbush wild species - or cultivated highbush varieties.  Native Americans utilized the blueberry and the plants themselves for food and medicinal applications. And elders of the Native American tribes told of the Great Spirit that brought the ‘star berries’ to relieve famine. The ‘star’ refers to the five-pointed shape at the blossom end of each berry.  
 
It is also believed that the Pilgrims were introduced to blueberries by the Wampanoag Tribe they encountered 400 years ago, helping them survive their first winter in North America.  The Native American tribes also utilized all aspects of the plant. The juice was used for the treatment of coughs as well as a for dye for cloth - and the leaves were made into tea.
Evening public ledger. [volume] (Philadelphia [Pa.]), 07 March 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.
BLUEBERRIES: THE EARLY-DAYS
The journey of the blueberry from farm to table is an intriguing one – that was inspired by agriculture enthusiasts, Elizabeth White and Dr. Frederick Coville, a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) botanist.

From the late 1800’s in Whitesbog, New Jersey, Elizabeth's father, Joseph J. White, was a renown cranberry grower and farmer. So much so, in 1869 he published “Cranberry Culture” as a how-to guide for growers. Elizabeth worked alongside her father at the bogs – and in 1893, at 22, she began to work at the farm during the fall cranberry harvest. 
 
These early days at the farm inspired Elizabeth to experiment with blueberries as a viable crop for the farm. Both cranberries and blueberries thrive in acidic sandy soil – and with blueberries ripening in the summer, and cranberries in the fall, the blueberry crop would expand their overall seasonal farm. In 1916 she joined forces with Dr. Frederick Coville to develop the cultivated blueberry plantings at Whitesbog.  
 
The connection and history of the blueberry as we know it today commercially is connected to that first cultivation in 1916. Whitesbog today encompasses nearly 3,000 acres of blueberry fields, cranberry bogs, reservoirs, the village & historic farmstead. 
“How to Make a Blueberry Pie” (cropped) by Nancy Dorsner is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
FARMERS' MARKETS
While most festivals have been cancelled for the season, your local farmers' markets offers a unique chance to savor the flavors of summer, even during this time of physical distancing.  Check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Farmers Market Directory to find one near you – no matter the season. And visit The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council for recipes, and cooking tips. Every region has a variety of seasonal berry offerings – alongside seasonal produce and vegetables. 
 
So as you create your favorite - or newly inspired blueberry recipe – remember the long journey and history of the simple blueberry, and the place it holds in U.S. heritage, history, culture and cuisine.
"Noe Street Farmers' Market" by The Cultural Traveler
The Cultural Traveler supports the critically important efforts of the scientists, medical teams and first responders as they keep us safe and connected as we have adapted to our new normal of physical distancing, wearing face covers while in public, and washing our hands regularly. 
 
And this Summer, if you do travel, travel safely – and enjoy the flavors of the season!
header photo credit: “Blueberries” by Gloria Cabada-Leman is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
When it's safe, travel healthy!
Contact the Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Homeland Security for the latest recommendations and travel restrictions.
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