Growing up on a Maine potato farm, my three older brothers and I did not eat a lot of rice. Not so many helpings of fresh Maine blueberries either.
Local fruit like raspberries, strawberries, apples, pears were the mainstay for something sweet. To end, to round out the family table offerings at meal time. A fresh, homemade healthy sized slab of strawberry / rhubarb pie blended nicely. The two fruits were very compatible. Heated up, with a couple super sized vanilla scoops of ice cream parked high on top. Lazily melting to drizzle slowly down the sides. You get the picture, can almost smell it through the monitor speakers right?
Blueberries, the high bush cultivated kind are grown around Northern Maine.
You see volunteer, stray wild blueberry plants hiking up Mt Katahdin. When planting the walking stick over other hills and dale hikes. But the wild blueberry crop is something found almost exclusively in Downeast Maine. Unless working the blueberry fields under a hot sun, and sampling the crop as you rake the lanes marked with strings, this dark blue fruit is not so familiar.
So highlight time on this Maine blog post to showcase Maine wild blueberries. Where to begin? For starters, every vegetable or fruit is a super pick of the pack, best of the bunch, cream of the crop one right? Today’s marketing puts whatever is being pitched over the top. Claiming a bowl full of these fix everything. To extend your life by at least a decade. To make the quality of your short time on planet Earth jacked up a few notches. All because of weaving a little of this, a lot of that into your diet. Of whatever you put in the pie hole three times or more a day.
But what about these wild blueberries in Maine?
What is the down and dirty true story about Maine wild blueberries? History, let’s start with the background of the wild blueberry. The first settlers, our Native Americans used fire to start the ritual. To rid Maine fields Downeast of insects and weeds. The burning of the blueberry barrens made the fruit come back hardy and stronger.
Like the shrub or decorative bush out front your home. Some the harder you cut back and prune the more determined they respond. To the Edward Scissorhand’s treatment in the snip and clip cutting.
Better quality, thicker growth, higher yields, more sugar content. All that helped establish Maine as the largest producer of wild blueberries in the world. The succulent fruit is harvested from over 60,000 acres of Maine land. Wild blueberries in Maine were some of the first vegetation on the scene after glaciers did their bump and grind scrape of the landscape. Being purple blue adds to the health benefits of blueberries.
More on this wild blueberry history Bangor Daily New article.
The Maine wild blueberry has been around the breakfast / lunch – dinner / supper circuit for a thousand years or more. Ever raked blueberries, been part of the hand picking and gleaning operation under the hot Maine harvest sun? Like potato picking, you never forget the lessons learned that stick with you for life.
Like most things, it takes time to go over the top. You get the best results from the hard labor. No pain, no gain. I have read it takes 50 years to establish a good wild blueberry field, that there are only about 6.5 million versions or varieties of wild Maine blueberries. And I thought there were a slug of Maine potato varieties to keep up with and match the changing habits and taste buds of spud consumers. I grew up with those discussions around the supper table because my Dad was president of the Maine potato council and testified in Washington DC hearings on the farmer’s behalf. I remember the campaigns to improve the quality of Maine potatoes. Bruisers are losers was one bumper sticker used to increase awareness of being kind in handling the Maine potato. Or is it potatoe?
So back to Maine blueberries, the wild ones or tame varieties that are domesticated and house broken.
The flavor that explodes from a fork full of blueberry pie with buttery crust, sprinkled sugar crystals. Or from simply popping a few from your hand out in the field. It is a complex mixture of flavors. All you know if you like it, you love it, you want some more of it. Sorry. Now you have that song in your head. My bad.
Only one percent of the Maine blueberry crop is sold fresh and the other ninety-nine percent is frozen. Has the chance this past weekend to list a Maine blueberry farm for sale. And even though my conventional farming background helps the learning curve, and my girlfriend along who owns an organic Maine farm, we both learned much.
This blueberry farm in Maine has 71 acres of the fruit and established markets. Set in Northfield Maine population under 150 like many rural Vacationland towns. Maine has 492 towns and so many are shrinking and going the unorganized territory route. Northfield Maine is bucking the trend and holding it’s own, growing slightly. Fulton, Bogg Lakes in the small Washington County Maine town don’t hurt keeping the population steady either.
The nutrition of the wild Maine blueberry, growing up on not the best soil conditions, with lots of rocks.
We’re talking big rocks of all kinds and sizes. A rugged, hilly terrain that an Aroostook County potato or grain farmer could not plant and cultivate or harvest without machinery damage. A far cry from the level to rolling, just rich rusting orange soil with a new crop of way way smaller rocks showing up to escort to piles along the boundary lines. Maybe the rough surroundings for the blueberry plant help make it stronger, a fighter. It is reported Maine wild blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity per serving, compared with more than 20 other fruits.
Maine blueberries, they say good things come in small packages.
When is the last time you had a blueberry flavored ice cream cone, a milkshake smoothie or planted in your morning muffin, in the pancake breakfast mix? Some sprinkled on top of your Wheaties. Maybe is is time for a healthy dose of this super fruit. Maine blueberries are a crop not planted and that only grows, spreads naturally.
Mother Nature does the heavy lifting, controls the blueberry farm crop. Man not so much. Maine blueberries are a two year cycle which helps the crop rotation and keeps the plant happy, healthy. Double the antioxidants and why not raise your hand and shout out “Maine wild blueberries please and thank you!’
One of the latest health and wellness trends is collagen peptides. Blueberries score sky high. Also, did you know thousands of beehives are brought in by Maine blueberry growers to pollinate the blueberry fields? More on wild Maine blueberries.
Maine blueberries, where do they show up in your list of fruits and healthy food preferences?
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