This was the summer of blueberries.

At first, it was only the frozen Costco variety. At midnight, they piled high on my Greek yogurt and Cheerio bowls. I popped a few (handfuls) along with my morning eggs and toast. My black lab and I would share a pocketful on our after-work walks. At night, I would dream about retiring in a historied mansion… except the walls are blueberries, the chairs and flatware are blueberries, and the only history this house has is its construction atop a cliff overlooking the sea of blueberries.

Okay, that’s a joke. But I really did (do) have blueberry fever.

In fact, any mention of fruit would send my mind to those tantalizingly tart yet sweet berries. When Frank Ocean croons, “And the peaches and the mangoes you could sell for me…” or when John Lennon instructs me to picture myself on a boat on a river, I think not of social vices; my mind stays true. Tangerine trees shrink to blueberry bushes, and the peaches and mangos follow.

I’ve got it bad.

Frank Ocean

david_hwang on Flickr

Pictured: Frank, pointing to the nearest blueberry patch (or maybe his next album??)

But the true days of celebration were yet to come. Blueberry season started in July, and every Saturday, my family made the pilgrimage to our local U-Pick farm. It’s a magical place.

However, it was here that I also learned a dark secret about my family.

It was just an ordinary Saturday in row 3. I wandered over to inspect my dad’s container; it was filled halfway with satisfactorily non-green orbs, but … something still seemed off.

“Why didn’t you pick any small blueberries, Dad?” I asked offhandedly. And from there, it is all downhill. I soon realized that my entire family had a completely unfounded aversion to little blueberries. Appalling.

I rode back home in silence. Yet my frantic texts to friends only sunk me deeper into despair. So here I find myself, 350 words into this article, finally getting to the point. To my family, my friends(?), and all the haters: here is a defense of small blueberries.

1. They Aren’t Different

To clarify, we are only talking about cultivated, high bush blueberries. Wild blueberries are clearly superior, but that’s a matter for another day. Among cultivated blueberries from the same bush, the large berries have more seeds and happen to be more heavily pollinated, but that is about it. Small blueberries can ripen just as much as large ones. Big blueberries are not juicier. They are not more succulent with extra c’s. In fact, for the same volume of small blueberries, you will get more blueberry skin than you would with big blueberries. Most of a blueberry’s antioxidant benefits are in its skin. Small blueberries save your brain.

2. They Taste Better: Refuting Evidence from a Failed Experiment

According to the gracious blueberry experts from the University of Michigan and the University of Maine who emailed me back, small blueberries and large blueberries will be equivalent in flavor, save the immature small blueberries that do not get a critical number of seeds. From personal experience, I certainly agree and even venture to say that small blueberries have a more complex and exciting taste than their larger counterparts. 

I set out to test the hypothesis that blueberry diameter was not a factor in determining overall gastronomical experience. Recruiting three friends (who were very biased against small blueberries, but were the best I could do given time constraints), I subjected them each to 12 different blueberries and asked them to rate each on acidity, sweetness, texture, juiciness, and overall quality. There were many flaws in my study (for which the raw data can be found here), so no actual conclusions could or should be drawn related to the original question. However, it was interesting to see that the most flagrantly biased subject, when accidentally made aware of which size blueberry she was receiving, would immediately and baselessly skew her results in favor of large blueberries. Not good! 

While my experiment didn't give me a satisfying conclusion, I am comfortable trusting the actual experts (also my own subjective taste buds). I will focus on helping my biased friend (and you!) see the light.

3. Some Informal Math

This argument is targeted at all you U-Pickers out there. I see you greedily packing your quarts full of the largest blueberries you can spy. You seem so content, so happy. You remind me of Little Sal from Blueberries from Sal wandering around in a state of bliss. Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk! But you are not Little Sal. You are wrong.

By the recently proven Kepler Conjecture, you can only fill ¾ of the total volume in your container if you’re just picking large blueberries. This is a crying shame and a crime. This is a crying crime. Fortunately, there is a simple solution: start picking small blueberries, too. When you pack different sized spheres together (binary sphere packing, an extension of Kepler’s original sphere packing problem), you can achieve a far greater efficiency - upwards of 90% of your container can be pure blueberry. This is a beautiful thing that needs to be acknowledged. Your tears can be wiped away. Things are okay, after all.

But maybe the farm you frequent charges by weight directly, and not volume. A pound of blueberries is a pound of blueberries, right? Well, almost. By including small blueberries, you are still saving fridge space, and you are (as previously mentioned) being extra healthy. In a world where things like Uno's Whole Hog Burger exist, there is something reassuring about the confidence of the tiny, bright-eyed blueberry.

Sofia Schlozman

Enjoy this photo of my friend's bright-eyed dog, Blueberry

4. Morally Righteous People Eat Small Blueberries: A Conclusion

Are you a glutton if you feast only on large blueberries? If you had to even ask yourself this question, I think you know the answer. If you didn’t bother asking yourself, then you are likely in denial. But I’m here to help. Here is a chance to right your wrongs, to abandon your stained past in favor of stained fingertips from eating small blueberries. If you come across a small blueberry with a reddish tint, fear not. Instead, embrace the acidity. Celebrate your multidimensional palette that can appreciate a range of pH values (and the fact that tart blueberries store better). If you come across a small, near-black blueberry, do not toss that prize aside. Rejoice in your freedom from Corporate America and its relentless efforts to hook you on mountains of sugar and ever-increasing serving sizes. You are more than a big blueberry loving consumer. Repeat after me. You are more than a big blueberry loving consumer. Enjoy your small blueberries. Enjoy your freedom.