CAPE CORAL, Fla. — You probably think about blueberries in the summer and not the fall, but researchers at the University of Florida are trying to change that.
"Blueberries in general are synonymous of summer for most Americans," said Dr. Patrico Munoz, an associate professor at UF/IFAS.
But soon Florida-grown blueberries could be synonymous with Fall as well.
"A few of the varieties that we have, and have thousands of them, they put one berry here and one berry there in the Fall," said Dr. Munoz.
So, Dr. Munoz led a group of researchers who evaluated more than 500 varieties to find which varieties could produce in the fall consistently.
"Once we were able to do that, we started studying what are the potential genes that drive this expression of this characteristic in the Fall," said Dr. Munoz.
And Dr. Munoz says the summer berries and the fall berries are basically the same.
"They have sweetness and the acidity, and the size, and importantly the firmness of the fruit. You know the texture is right,” said Dr. Munoz. “All these characteristics are right. There are not a lot of them, but there are enough of them to start pre-commercial trials."
And that's the next step, pre-commercial trials with willing farmers.
"The idea is to see if we are able find the right producer, the right farmers, that are able to take this and start rolling the ball and start developing an industry for the Fall," said Dr. Munoz.
While that might sound easy, Dr. Munoz says it could take some time.
"There is going to be some period of discovery and development of the industry in the Fall,” said Dr. Munoz. “But if successful, the Fall and the Winter are a pretty good window for prices, because all the blueberries that time of the year are actually coming from other countries."
And if successful...
"Who knows, maybe we have fresh, local blueberries for Thanksgiving," said Dr. Munoz.