Poland’s Blueberry Gold
BRZEZINY, Lodzkie — A Sure Sign of Summer. Poles know that summer has truly arrived as signaled by the annual blueberry harvest. It is a much welcomed relief to see and taste these delicious berries recognized as a gift from the sun after the usual long, cold and dreary Polish winter. Cultivated blueberries are called borowki here. However, the names jagoda/jagodi (singular/plural) are also used for blueberries, but sometimes used generically to describe other types of berries in general. The prized and much sought after jagodi are the wild blueberries found growing in the forest, and are usually found for personal sale by villagers along the rural roadsides. Regardless of their origin – forest or farmed – the delectable berries are prepared and eagerly consumed in many different ways – but the most classic preparation is the savory blueberry pierogi, sautéed in butter and served topped with a dollop of sour cream topping – smaczny!
In phoro: Some crates of freshly harvested blueberries awaiting shipment
Here at the Klosowski family-owned blueberry plantation (as referred to in Poland), 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) east of the city of Lodz, it is a very busy time from the first week of July into September, depending on the caprice of Poland’s early fall weather. This particular plantation is 1 hectare (2.5 acres), and produces about 20 metric tons (44’092 pounds) of blueberries annually. These berries are individually hand-plucked from the bushes as they ripen. The Klosowski’s harvest is sold in the greater-Lodz area, but are even being directly exported to Croatia and Finland.
People from the local villages provide the field labor – they are mainly shorts and T-shirted teenagers, arriving by bicycle, seeking pocket money along with some older people working to supplement their incomes. Noticing one much older woman – sensibly attired in a long dress, brimmed sun hat and sturdy shoes – I wondered aloud how she could keep up with the mlody (young people) and was quickly told matter-of-factly by proprietress Pani Ania Klosowska that the lady is one of the plantation’s most valued and productive workers! Up to a score of pickers were active on the day of my hot, sunny August 2014 visit, constantly shuttling back and forth from the fields to the weighing-in table with their pails brimming with lush blueberries.
There are numerous other family owned blueberry holdings of varying size radiating out from here in central Poland, but there is some very big industrial players as well. According to the latest available published reports (2013), the berry production for the cooperative Rajpol stood at 881’840 pounds and at 1’543’220 pounds for the producer group Polski Jagody, with both entities planning on expanding their orchards and harvests. In addition to the domestic market for fresh consumption, and mainly for export to the U.K., Germany, France, and Scandinavia, they both grow the varieties Patriot, Sierra, Sunrise, Bluecrop, Nelson, Chandler, Liberty and Aurora – all collectively identified and referred to as “American blueberries.”
In photo on left:: Pani Ania Klosowska weighing/logging in blueberries from three young pickers.
No matter on what scale you look at it, the annual blueberry motherlode is growing and proving to be a very golden agriculture asset to Poland, both domestically and abroad, being warmly welcomed everywhere as a true summer delight.
In photo below: Villagers selling wild blueberries roadside,
and photo at bottom: Klosowski Blueberry Plantation
Richard P. Poremski
Polish American Journal
Washington, DC Bureau
July 7, 2015