Fruit types used to be regional: citrus was along the southern edge of the country, apples and cherries were in the northern half, the American chestnut grew in the east, and so on. Blueberries were known for being a northern fruit, but like other fruit varieties, blueberry bush cultivars have gradually established themselves farther and farther south.
Plant breeders have been working for years to make it easier to grow fruits outside of their original ranges, and their efforts have paid off well in the form of the Ventura Blueberry, a highbush variety that will grow in climates as warm as those found in Mexico and Spain.
So if you live in a part of the country with weather that’s been too warm for growing traditional blueberries, this is good news! Keep reading to learn about the Ventura Blueberry.
History of the Ventura Blueberry
The Ventura Blueberry (V. corymbosum ‘Ventura’) is a product of the Fall Creek Nursery Genetics program. It was first created (or “selected”) in 2006 after two unpatented varieties were crossed. This cross, between ‘FL96-24’ and ‘FL00-60,’ took place in 2000 in Oregon. The Ventura Blueberry was patented in 2013 (the first application was submitted in 2012 and awarded in 2013) and bred to be a low-chill variety that could be grown in warmer climates.
The Ventura variety is not yet available for home gardeners but is available for commercial growers in the United States, Peru, and other countries. it’s one of the most exported varieties of blueberries from Peru, and it’s a cultivar that the company hopes to use to increase blueberry popularity in Spain.
Ventura Blueberry Characteristics
This southern highbush variety is low-chill, needing just 300 to 500 hours of temperatures at or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. It can even adapt to areas that have very few to no chill hours. However, its tolerance of warmth goes only so far in that the fruit is a very early-season ripener; in central California, it would be picked during May. It is a vigorous grower with an upright growing habit. It’s very easy to propagate, and at four years old, a plant grown in Delano, CA, was estimated to have produced over 13 pounds of fruit.
The fruits themselves are large and firm, with a sweet flavor that makes them perfect for eating fresh. They have a nice medium-blue color when ripe and grow in the typical clusters you expect to see on a blueberry bush.
This plant does well in USDA plant hardiness zones 7-9.
For in-depth information about how to grow blueberries in your home garden, visit our article that will walk you through everything you need to know.
Size and Pollination
After about three years, one plant can reach around 3 1/2 feet tall and 2 1/2 feet wide. Those dimensions are for a plant grown in Oregon, where Fall Creek’s main breeding program is located.
While the Ventura Blueberry was created from a pollinated pair, the hybrid variety is self-pollinating. According to the patent description, about 73 percent of self-pollinated flowers will reach maturity, which is a good success rate. The plant is propagated through cuttings and not grown from seed.
The Ventura Blueberry’s susceptibility to cane canker, bud blight, and stem blight is undetermined. However, it does not appear to be very susceptible to Phytophthora and leaf spot. It’s a relatively tough plant with good survival odds.
Still, it’s always prudent to take the necessary precautions to keep your plants healthy and increase the chances of having a good yield of fruit. Visit this link to read our blog post about the most common blueberry bush diseases.
It’s not just people who love blueberries and, chances are, you’ll end up dealing with a pest or two. For information about how to identify, eliminate, and deter pests, read our blog post on the 9 common pests you’ll encounter with blueberries
Common Uses for the Ventura Blueberry
This is a sweet-tasting variety that you can eat raw but, like other blueberries, you can use it in baking as well. It has fairly thick skin, so keep that in mind if you want to use the berries to make jam or smoothies.
Health Benefits of the Ventura Blueberry
One of the reasons more blueberry varieties are being released is because the blueberry has become a superpower in the world of health. In general, blueberries are packed with nutrition, contributing to your daily protein, fiber, vitamin C, manganese, and vitamin K intakes.
Blueberries also contain anthocyanins, which help reduce inflammation, and eating blueberries regularly may help your heart stay healthy. The flavonoids in blueberries also help brain health, and the berries are currently being investigated regarding anti-cancer properties. To read more about the health benefits of blueberries, click here.
Can You Buy This Plant?
As of early 2022, you can only buy the Ventura blueberry bush if you’re a commercial grower. It’s not yet available for the home garden. That being said, it’s becoming more widely grown around the world. Between June 2020 and February 2021, Peru exported 159,000 tons of blueberries, with ‘Ventura’ and ‘Biloxi’ as the main cultivars.
But if you live in a garden zone that’s ideal for a Ventura Blueberry, all is not lost. There are other varieties that thrive all the way into zone 9 that you can purchase for home growing.
Remember the statement about how ‘Ventura’ would hopefully increase the popularity of the blueberry in Spain? In 2016, it was estimated that while people in the U.S. ate on average 1 kilogram (2.2. pounds) of blueberries per year, people in Spain ate on average 1 gram of blueberries – that’s less than one berry per person.
Blueberries tend to fall into three main groups.
- Highbush blueberries (V. corymbosum), named for the height of the plants
- Lowbush blueberries (V. angustifolium and V. myrtilloides), which do well in baking
- Rabbiteyes blueberries(V. ashei), which are large berries named for the pink color they develop before they turn blue
If you want to grow blueberries, start checking your soil pH now; they require acidic soil, and amending pH can take at least a few months.
The Ventura blueberry was one of six varieties released by Fall Creek in 2013, and it was one of three aimed at the fresh-eating market.
Blue fruits aren’t that common, but they aren’t exactly rare. However, a number of fruits considered to be “blue” are either more purple than blue, or they contain multiple hues.
Blueberry bloom (that whitish layer you see on so many berries) has a dual purpose. It not only protects the fruit from many insects and bacteria, but it also signals that the fruit is toward the fresher end of the ripening/picking spectrum. A blueberry without bloom may be older, although keep in mind that the amount of bloom can vary with each variety. You also can’t assume the bloom will protect you from bacteria, so continue to wash those berries before you use them.
Fruit color isn’t the only cosmetic benefit of having blueberry bushes in your garden. The leaves on some varieties turn yellow, orange, and red in fall, and in spring, masses of white or pink flowers form in preparation for berry production.
Take care in choosing varieties – not only do you want great-tasting berries, but some blueberry cultivars can grow as tall as 12 feet!
True blueberries are native to North America, but a related fruit, the bilberry, is native to Europe and often referred to as a “blueberry,” too.
Blueberries are in the same genus as cranberries, bilberries, and huckleberries. They’re also related to the farkleberry (V. arboreum), although the farkleberry isn’t edible to humans. The farkleberry is also known as the tree sparkle-berry or sparkleberry.
Wrapping up the Ventura Blueberry
Whether the Ventura Blueberry will ever be available to home gardeners is unknown. But it’s a hardy, heat-tolerant variety good for commercial growers in southern areas, and home gardeners still have a wealth of choices when it comes to blueberry bushes. Add color ranging from deep blue to dark pink (yes, dark pink!), and turn part of your garden into a food source for both animals and humans.
To find a blueberry variety that fits your yard’s microclimate, click here for our other blog posts on blueberries.
Excited for more blueberry content? Then check out our blueberry page to learn all about how to grow, care for, and harvest this delicious fruit!