“The biggest challenge is being consistent with finding the right size of fruit,” he said.
“We’ve been able to identify certain varieties to pretty much have a consistent supply of large-size fruit.”
Grande Blues are available from late April through September, during the California and Oregon blueberry seasons. Hurst’s mixes larger berries into its regular packs, too, Perkins said.
Hurst’s, a year-round blueberry shipper, expects to pick Oregon blueberries into September. The late-season crop is expected to be put into controlled atmosphere storage to maintain a supply of high-quality Oregon berries for the market until Argentinean and Chilean blueberries take over in about late September.
Hurst’s also ships blueberries from Canada, where good volumes were expected to be available by late July.
Early blueberry harvest at Oregon Berry Packing Co., Hillsboro, Ore., got under way July 1, said Brian Malensky, vice president of domestic sales.
The crop was good quality and the weather was good for producing large berries. Malensky said he expected a big crop of duke variety blueberries. He expected mid-season blueberries would be ready for harvest by about July 20, with late season berries ready about Aug. 15.
In August, consumers should be impressed with some of the newer varieties of blueberries that are expected to be sweet and large, Malensky said.
He said he thinks the industry hasn’t yet reached its production potential in August and September, but that some newer varieties will help increase late summer volumes. Among Oregon Berry’s newer varieties are liberty, aurora, legacy and ochlockonee. They offer more flavor and are firmer, Malensky said.
“Our feeling is that in the future, berries will be promoted more by variety, like the bing cherry,” Malensky said.
“The superior buyers will want to know what varieties they’re buying.”
Oregon Berry can harvest blueberries into October. It has controlled atmosphere storage, where it can hold some varieties of blueberries for about six weeks.
Malensky said the company holds and ships berries until the Argentinean deal begins in the fall. He said he did not have estimates for the number of trays it was expected to ship, but said the company produces about 10% of the state’s blueberries.