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Blueberry tasting

We went to a blueberry tasting this morning. It was held at the OSU- USDA germplasm repository in Corvallis. They've got more than 400 varieties of blueberries under cultivation--and we were free to just wander around, pick, and eat. "But no baggies," our tour guide said. We want to add 3-4 blueberries to the landscape here, so we much appreciated this event and did our own informal judging. We sought out heavy producers of large, slightly tart berries that appeared to more- or-less ripen at the same time. When the tasting was over, my sister said that she'd taken on enough anti-oxidants to keep her from rusting for a long time.

In all, we must have sampled 100 or so varieties. Tartness ranged from sour to sweet. Flavor ranged from distinct, which is about the best you can say for a blueberry, to bland or close to none; flavorfulness and tartness seem to be linked, except the sour ones are simply sour. We ended up with a short list of five desirable varieties--Spartan, Blueray (1), Blueray (2), Elliott, and an unnamed new cultivar. All are "northern highbush" varieties. Since the unnamed cultivar was not superior to any of the others, we lopped it from the list.

Interesting thing about the two Bluerays: In theory, they're the same cultivar, but (1) came from the Royal BG [which I took to be Kew] and (2) is the original Blueray variety developed in the US. The RBG Blueray was slightly tarter [hence, more flavorful] than the home- grown one, although the home-grown one was also very tasty and otherwise the fruits were much the same. I should've taken my refractometer so I could have measured the brix of both, but it didn't occur to me.

Blueberries were the main reason we went, but there's a lot more going on at the station. It's also a major repository of pear germplasm-- some 1,600 varieties of pears--with tasting of those coming ripe now. Because pears are not high on our list of favorite fruits, we skipped that part of the tour. We tasted two "new" cultivars of cane berries, both of which are just now entering commercial-grower trials. One is a blackberry [excellent, maybe best ever]; the other a red raspberry [nice, but to my mind only marginally better than what's out there].

Then a vegetable researcher showed us his two favorite projects--a purple tomato that is really purple [and has the same anti-oxidant properties of other purple/blue fruit, like blueberries and egg plant, and a squash called tomboncino. The fruit of the tomato, it seems, is purple where it's exposed to the sun, but greed where it's shaded. When it ripens, the green part turns red but the purple part stays purple. Tomboncino squash look and grow like the zucchini/yellow crookneck tribe, but the breeder, James Myers, says the flesh is denser and has a nuttier flavor. At present, tomboncino seeds are available from a few nurseries [he mentioned, when asked, Nichols], but they produce big vines. He's trying to breed a bush [no, not him; the useful kind].

On the way home, we bought two more quarts of red currants that we are now processing in the steam juicer.

Island Jim
Willamette Valley
44.99 N 123.04 W
Elevation 148'
Hardiness Zone 8/9
Heat Zone 5
Sunset Zone 6
Minimum 0 F [-15 C]
Maximum 86 F [30 C]

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