Why Maine’s blueberries are special

Across the country, pumpkin flavoring seems to infuse about everything on the menu come October, and something similar happens every summer in Maine with blueberries. The tourists and summer people, especially, seem to eat it right up. (Err, couldn’t help myself there.) So it’s not just lobster they come to devour.

Here are some facts about Maine’s in relation to the rest of the nation and world,  mostly.

  1. The local brewpub calls its obligatory blueberry ale Skul Clothes. The name puzzled me until I was told that’s how kids traditionally earned the money for their school clothes each year, at least before mechanized machines took over most of the patches. “It’s hard work, down on your hands and knees,” as one recent high school graduate told me. “But the pay’s good.” After that, I could tell the locals who walked in for the first time, looked at the offerings on the chalkboard, and broke out in a grin. They’d all done it.
  2. Ours are lowbush, wild, unlike the highbush varieties cultivated elsewhere. We lead the world in lowbush production, though it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the highbush harvests of British Columbia, Oregon, or Washington state. While Atlantic Canada produces half of the world’s wild blueberry tally, that covers more than a single province – Nova Scotia is the leader there.
  3. Lowbush berries are smaller but more flavorful, in our humble opinion.
  4. They’re also preferred in making blueberry wine.
  5. Blueberries are one of the few commercially-available fruits native to North America. The First Nations, some of whom called them star-berries for their blossoms and the tiny ring at their base, have been eating them for at least 13,000 years
  6. They top the list as an antioxidant and are rich in Vitamin C and even manganese.
  7. Wild blueberry patches are burned every two years.
  8. Wild blueberries freeze in just four minutes.
  9. Some research indicates they counter memory loss in aging. I’ll have to remember that. They’re also good for the heart, cancer-risk reduction, and lowering blood pressure.
  10. I like mine fresh, with yogurt or cream. Pancakes, muffins, jams and jellies come next.

2 thoughts on “Why Maine’s blueberries are special

  1. During one trip across the country I snacked on wild blueberries that I picked in the forests along the Trans-Canada highway in Ontario.
    I have visited the blueberry growing are in the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean area of Quebec. Production is as you describe, the area is a magnet for beekeepers in the spring and fields are burned every two years to encourage new growth and control fungi and other pests. Quebec is the largest producer of managed wild blueberries in Canada and one report says they passed Maine’s production in 1916.
    People in Quebec love to boast of their blueberries (called bleuets in French). I think they taste better than the high bush kind, probably more nutritious, too.

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