When you think of Maine, you have to think of the blueberry. These are not the more common high bush variety you usually see in the grocery store. Maine blueberries are a special wild variety that grows only in this beautiful state. In fact, Maine boasts over 60,000 acres of this delicious berry, that requires such a specialized type of soil and environment that it can't be reproduced. Maine's acidic soil offers little nutrients for most things; while our winters are not for the faint of heart. These things keep lesser men (and crops) from growing, but are perfect for this little powerhouse of a berry. The fields are harvested in stages, so one half is harvested one year and the second is done the following year-the plant requires two years to produce the berry. In the fall, it is a common sight to see the fields being burned to encourage plant growth for the coming harvest year. In the fall, the fields are breathtaking, as the leaves turn crimson in the cold. It's a sight that takes your breath away.
Maine blueberries are much more than a pretty face. Each tiny berry is packed with antioxidants, namely anthocyanins. Most foods contain 1 or 2, while the Maine wild blueberries contain 27! You can enjoy this benefit no matter how you use the berries. Eat them straight out of hand, or in desserts and main dishes. Try throwing some on a smoothie or even enjoy a sparkling champagne.
Locals can harvest the berries for free-many of us have a little bit of wild blueberries growing on our land, or know someone who does. For the especially ambitious, the public lands offer places where visitors can pick up to 1 quart of berries per person, per day. This is a little more complicated than it sounds. Maine wild blueberries are tiny. Much smaller than the ones you see at the market. Picking them has never been easy, and it's hot/buggy work. The rewards however, make this challenge one that those in the know turn to every year. If you are interested in celebrating this fabulous berry, the Machias Blueberry Festival is coming right up, on August 14 and 15, 2015. It's well worth the trip, and you will see artisans from all over the area. It's a blueberry extravaganza!