Blueberries: Which Ones Taste Best?


We’re big fans of blueberries here on the North Coast of California, as our damp Pacific Northwest climate and acidic soil make it the perfect setting to grow blueberry bushes. And we’re coming up on the best time to plant them, as most nurseries get their biggest shipment of blueberry varieties in fall.

Because blueberries are beautiful plants almost year-round, they’re great for incorporating into landscapes, even low-maintenance or commercial/ business landscapes.

And if you forget to eat the fruit, the birds will clean up after you, in stark contrast to many fruit trees which bear an almost-overwhelming harvest sometimes (juicing my apples in fall feels like a part-time job – not that I’m complaining!).

But which berries are the tastiest? Over the past two years I’ve taken it upon myself to do a taste-test of the blueberries grown locally here in Humboldt County to see which ones I ought to plant and suggest to my clients. (The sacrifices I make in the name of research, right?)

In a general sense, small berries are best for baked goods since they have less moisture, while larger berries are best for eating right off the shrub. I prefer the tart ones for cooking and preserving since they add a stronger flavor in baked goods. Sweet berries don’t taste like much in muffins and pies, but they are delicious eaten fresh.

Below, I’ve shared the good, the bad, and the “meh” in the world of blueberries. I’ve starred my favorites.

Blueberry plants design by Matthew Cunningham Landscape DesignLandscape design featuring blueberries by Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design.

Best blueberries for coastal Northern California:

Bluecrop: Tastes just like a good supermarket blueberry – perfect balance between sweet and tart, but missing a tiny bit of “wow” factor.

Bluejay: Boring, watery flavor, but I’m told this keeps well for freezing and canning.

Blueray: Complex, tangy, overall sweet flavor. A very nice berry indeed.

Brunswick: Sweet but uninteresting flavor (only redeeming quality is the dwarf 2-foot size of the shrub).

Earliblue: Bland and uninteresting. What’s the point of being the first to ripen if it is going to be so deadly boring?

Duke: Mildly tart but otherwise doesn’t distinguish itself much. Again, no point being an early ripener if you’re not very tasty.

Jubilee: Bright, crisp, complex flavor, balanced in sweetness. A favorite. Medium berries.

Misty: Mild, uninspiring flavor.

*Patriot: Big, juicy-sweet berries with lovely flavor. Sean Armstrong of Tule Fog Farm in Arcata says that Patriot’s the most popular berry for our area. Tolerates wetter soil than most.

*Peach Sorbet: New variety with plump, sweet, mild berries with a hint of pine in the flavor. Notable for dwarf habit to 2-3′ and particularly nice foliage. (This one wins best foliage plant.)

Polaris: Tart but otherwise boring.

*Reka: Very best tart berry. An early ripener with some actual flavor! Medium size berry.

Rubel: Small berries, with a gently tart flavor.

Sharpblue: In contrast to its name, Sharpblue has a mild, sweet flavor. Not a standout, but not bad either.

*Sunshine Blue: Similar to Bluecrop, this is a supermarket-style blueberry with a good balance between sweet and tart. Dwarf shrub to 3 feet, notable for being nearly evergreen in mild climates. (This one’s the best all-’round dwarf – good for cooking, eating, landscapes.)

*Toro: Ginormous, tart, flavorful berries. This was my favorite in every landscape and I will definitely be planting one at my house! (This wins the “most thrillingly gigantic berries” award.)

Keep in mind that the soil, lighting, water, and other factors play a large part in the flavor of your blueberry, so it’s possible that my “watery and boring” berry might be a hit when planted in your garden. That said, I am unwilling to consider a reality in which Toro, Reka, and Patriot don’t knock it out of the park, flavor-wise. Nom!

Wondering what everyone else is growing? Check out Daniel Gasteiger’s Post Produce, a monthly linkup of blog posts about what people are growing and eating in their own backyards.

Thanks to Brazel Berries for the use of the blueberry photo at top.

37 responses to “Blueberries: Which Ones Taste Best?”

  1. Thanks Gen for the research! Your taste trials will help me make some good choices when I’m ready to plant my favorite edible landscape shrub. I also appreciate your taste and texture standards, like my own.
    I’d love to hear your opinions on a corn taste test. I find most folks go for sweet and miss the texture and ‘corn’ flavor balance in their trials, making it difficult to know which variety to go with.
    Thanks for the punishment you endure for us! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks, Evelyn! I sure wish we grew corn here, but our lack of sunshine means I have never once gotten a decent crop. I’ve long ago given up. But I think you should go for it! I mean, taste tests are a lot of work to conduct (all that noshing can really wear you down) but they, we’re dedicated to the cause of good food and good gardening, right?

      • Hi my name is Reza Alizamani. I want to plant a blueberry. Need your opinion top 5 which one is best I live in Riverside side County. 2nd question do they come in dwarf if it does top 5 please

      • I just read your article on blueberries and wanted to know what you thought of the jellybean blueberry variety. I just bought one and wanted to put it in a large container.thank you for your article and I may have to try the liberty variety also.

  2. During blueberry season I eat massive quantities of this berry, it is my favorite fruit. Sadly it is hard to grow in our alkaline soil. I have tried to remedy this by growing dwarf and low-bush varieties in pots, with mixed success.

  3. I added the “climax” variety to my garden. Yes, explosive taste in my North Carolina garden. Reka and Jersey varieties have also been yummy.

    If you need more acid and are a coffee drinker, consider dumping your coffee grounds into your composter or adding to topdressing around the bushes.

  4. Legacy belongs in the argument. Very, very good.
    Elizabeth and Sparta are tremendous and grown only for their taste.
    . Hardy blu, brigette, from the early openers try Hannas Choice and maybe my favorite because it s so distinctive, Bonus.
    The true gourmet usually agrees with and feels that Jersey is loaded with richness and subtleties.
    I was surprised to see blue crop on your list.

  5. Jason

    you can create a micro-environment. Blueberry roots only go down about ten inches or less and with most cultivars they don t spread out more than to the drip line.
    . Dig your hole 18 inches deep by 2.5 feet wide. Put 4 to 6 inches of sand on the bottom for drainage and as a barrier to the native soil. Discard the old,soil. Fill the hole with peat and aged pine chips or pine bark. That will set the ph level and the breaking down of the pine will keep it there. Now mulch with pine needles and fertilize lightly twice a year with Holleytone or AMMONIUM sulphur (not elemental sulphur or aluminate sulphur).
    . PH jumps back if you try to amend the soil and set it to acidity or a low Ph. Won’t happen this way , just find a cultivar that is recommended for your zone and enjoy.

  6. PS….make sure the pine chips are aged; organic materials use up the nitrogen in the soil as they decompose and would starve the plant.

  7. Hi, we recently purchased a large package of lovely looking blueberries from costco. It was the driediger farms brand and well within the expiration date. If looking on their website it seems to be that these may be duke blueberries but when my mother and i tasted some they were like no other blues we had ever tasted. Some were sweet and plump but some were smaller and all when eaten had this sharp, zingy, tart almost effervescent like quality on your tongue. We thought that they may have gone bad or stale (which who knows how long costco had them) but none were moldy or shrivelled… it was very strange.
    Just wondered if this characteristic had ever come up or have we simply gone mad? ๐Ÿ˜‰

      • I love Jersey. It doesn’t keep very well so you have to use it right away or freeze it. It doesn’t have any aroma either but it is VERY sweet and has great flavor that is not tart. I have tried it grown in Oregon and British Columbia….being a blueberry fanatic with family in both places I sample obsessively when ever I travel!

  8. I’m surprised that no one mentioned Chandlers! They are my ultimate favorite and seem to be the favorite of my neighbor as well. I live inland about 20 miles from the coast in Gasquet, so get both coastal weather and hot summers depending (literally) on which way the wind is blowing that day. I recently took a workshop in Grants Pass on raising blueberries and it seemed like the favorite of most was also the Chandler. However, if I remember correctly, the variety that the local Costco was purchasing from blueberry fields in Grants Pass was the Patriot. I also have tried both Duke and Spartan with little success. so took them out. I got 3 bare root blueberry bushes at Grocery Outlet last year for $1 a piece. I figured what did I have to lose? I had the store look up the variety as they were not marked. They were Toro. This year they have grown tremendously and are already setting fruit. I am anxious to try them. I also have Brigetta, Reka, Berkley, Blueray, Patriot, Legacy. I agree that the Blueray has little flavor, but at the time I put them in, that is what most of the local nurseries carried and who wants to tear out plants that are doing well? At another inland “U-pick” blue berry farm they favor Bluegold. I don’t have that variety but it was so delicious I had trouble filling my bucket because I ate so many!

  9. Hi,
    What are the regs/requirements of sending you samples for identification?
    Thank you.

  10. I saw a previous comment about the inability to grow corn here on the coast.. I’m in a wind tunnel on Myrtle, just off the slough and have had stunning success with Ruby Glow (available only at Cook’s Garden and Burpee) for the last three years. Also with Oaxacan Green . I’m a corn snob, having been reared in the Midwest and Ruby Glow is one of the best tasting , and definitely the most beautiful (and, bonus, high in anthocyanins) I’ve ever run across.

  11. I’d like to plant 3 Reka blueberries in my front yard as a foundation plant. I’d prefer not to add another variety – just for aesthetics- but will I get a decent crop of berries with only Reka?
    Eureka, CA

  12. I have growing, in containers as such, several varieties : BlueCrop, BlueGold, BlueRay,Brigetta, Chandler,Chippewa, Duke, Elliot, Jersey, Legacy, NorthBlue, NorthLand, Patriot, Polaris, Reka … with few issues. I have 39 plants…as I’m always open to try a new varietal. I’ll be getting the new Brazil berry variety Jellybean next week!

    Which would I say is the best tasting… that’s tough because I just love blueberries -! But I enjoy Reka, Jersey, Chippewa, Patriot-! But mostly just love pie?

  13. Does any know where i could buy wild Alaskan blueberry plants or seeds would like to try to grow them here in western Pa

  14. We have a u pick berry farm in Nelson b.c. growing different varieties of gooseberries, currants, raspberries, blackberries and of course are most popular berry the blue berries. Our most popular varities for taste are blueray, chanticleer,legacy, briggita, bonus, spartan, herbert, Chandler, patriot, reka, hardyblue, Sierra, toro, blue gold, friendship, arlen, Nelson and my personal favorite Elizabeth. Duke is very productive but very mild tasting and I pulled out a row of Chippewa ,

  15. I like Berkeley best. I did a blind tasting test on my husband with Berkeley and Reka, and he thought Berkeley is slightly tastier.
    We have 2 u,picks around here, and each has a variety that I like, but nobody can tell me their names.

  16. Thank you for all your research. Now I have to find the plants, get my ground ready and begin looking forward the some great eating. I was raised on wild huckleberries so am looking for flavor. Store bought just don’t do it. I am a humboldt senior and enjoy playing in the dirt.

  17. RE: Asterick… can’t be sure, but probably signifying that the plant is patented. Draper, Aurora, Liberty, and Huron are all examples of patented plants that you generally pay more for.

  18. Have you heard anything about these newer Sweetheart Blueberries? They are suppose to produce fruit twice a year but I haven’t really had any luck finding out what they taste like.
    People in my area have been suggesting the Toro variety but they are a bit tart, I prefer sweeter berries that I can just eat straight off the plant. Baking and Canning is too much work :P. I was wondering if the Sweethearts would be an option.

    • I have been growing Sweetheart for two years. Firm berry, sweet but tart like Bluegold even when left on the bush for a long time. I would say less tart than Bluegold and equally sweet. The flavour is great. I am just not a tart berry person. I describe blueberries as Sweet (or not), Tart ( or not) and Flavorful (or not). I read that it develops overripe flavors if left to hang on the bush too long. I did not experience this. I also haven’t experienced the re-fruiting trait either.

      My personal favourite is Elizabeth. Wow! Sweet, flavorful and not tart. I agree that Toro is a bit too tart…unless it hangs forever and you don’t water it for a few days. Then it gets sweeter and less tart.

      • I LOVE tart berries. patriot is my favourite. I bought an Elliot this year to extend my season and will try to find a Toro and Elizabeth after reading this post. Thank you.

  19. I found a way to create killer Blueberries at harvest. It seems complicated, at first. But, bear with me, your berries will never be the same. I use a CO2 powered foliar spray to ramp up K and P within the berries. I dissolve 1.25 g of Food Grade TKPP(Tetrapotassium pyrophosphate) in a Gallon of distilled or purified water. Add this to a three Gallon all plastic sprayer fitted with a Schrader valve near the top. Via a ball chuck, regulator and CO2 tank. I’ll pressurize it to about 20 psi. Shake the liquid momentarily and re-pressurize. The normal alkaline TKPP is now pH 6. Fully cover plant until dripping. Do this as often as you can for fun. So, it’s near harvest time! Now add one drop of Wintergreen oil to the TKPP solution. Pressurize and spray the plants, especially the fruit. The contained Methyl Salicylate of the Wintergreen oil is a plant messenger chemical. It tells the plant it’s attcked by fungus. Instantaneously, more polyphenolics are formed. The berry flavor is enhanced.
    I do this very same thing for apples winegrapes and strawberries. I’m deaf. This is what I do to make life worth living.

    • Thank you for the very detailed step by step process Steven. When do you start this process?