[Disclosure: I visited Maine as a guest of the Wild Blueberry Association of North America. I was not compensated for my time or asked to write this post. Opinions expressed are my own.]
~by Regan Jones, RD
If you’re as down about the time change and unseasonably cooler temps as I am, then hopefully today’s post will offer you a small glimpse into what’s “good” about winter.
Sure, there are things like cozy sweaters, weekends of wall-to-wall college football (can I get a #WarEagle?), soup on the stove and of course, the fresh red face look of coming in from the cold.
You know that’s a benefit, right? I had a friend in college who said that women always look prettiest with a red face coming in from the cold.
Come to think of it… he might have had an adult beverage or two before imparting that knowledge on me. So strike that last one.
Anyway, there’s one big benefit in the food world that you may not realize is uniquely winter. And that’s the magic that’s happening in that much forgotten area of the world (or much forgotten to folks like me who think Maine is mostly just lobsters and sunset pictures from my friend Candace Karu). Maine is also the home… the only US home… to commercially harvested Wild Blueberries. So as the first snows fall and begin to protect the barrens that produce most of the world’s wild blueberries, it’s preparation for great things to come.
I recently had a chance to visit Maine to learn all about wild blueberries and what makes them uniquely a prized fruit.
Wild Blueberry Barren
Me... Standing in a Wild Blueberry Barren, awkwardly looking like I'm working hard and hand-harvesting
One of the Wild Blueberry Farmers we met, actually working hard and hand-harvesting
The fruits of our labor
I’ve always loved “blueberries” and didn’t really know there was a difference between a wild blueberry and a (tame?) blueberry. My time in Maine though enlightened me to how very different they really are. Check out these fact from my friends at WildBlueberries.com:
- Wild Blueberries are one of North America’s oldest native berries, and have thrived under the harsh growing conditions of Northern New England, Eastern Canada and Quebec for over 10,000 years. <—— Folks, that’s a LONG time in agriculture world.
- (Because of their harsh growing conditions) Wild Blueberries have higher anthocyanin content than ordinary blueberries. <— As Maine part-time resident Martha Stewart would say, This is a VERY good thing
- Wild Blueberries are wild by nature, and can’t be planted or farmed in the ways that many industrial food crops are. <— This fascinates me. Why? Because you can't even transplant a wild blueberry bush. If you do, it becomes a cultivated blueberry… grows differently, different fruit is produced. It’s amazing that we actually have a crop in this country that we’re doing so little to and getting such a great product. I guess it’s a testament to the fact that Mother Nature does know best sometimes.
I really could go on and on about all the ways that Wild Blueberries are different… not only from their tame cousins, but many crops in general (including the ability to use less chemicals in crop management because of their native growing region), the fact that cup-for-cup they’re much more nutritious than regular or that they’re available year-round in your freezer…but honestly, it's the uniquely bold blueberry taste that makes them a prized addition to any kitchen.
So throw on a comfy sweater and head out into the cold for a little fresh faced shopping... and grab a bag from the freezer section of your local market. We have 15 ways for you to love wild blueberries, too.