Editor’s be aware: This story was initially printed in July 2022.
Wild blueberry season sneaks up on me yearly, and I don’t thoughts the delicious shock one bit.
This 12 months, it occurred on the Fourth of July. I used to be mountain climbing up Nice Pond Mountain in Orland with my husband, Derek, and our canine, Juno. As we adopted the Stuart Gross Path up the mild west slope of the mountain, I seen a purple-blue berry nestled in a low-lying bush.
The berry wasn’t fairly ripe, and it was surrounded by even much less ripe, inexperienced blueberries. However I had hope.
Farther up the path, out of the shade of the forest, we began recognizing ripe wild blueberries in every single place. We crouched on uncovered granite bedrock to pluck and instantly snack on the tiny, flavor-packed fruit.
Juno confirmed some curiosity by sniffing round, so we provided her just a few. Earlier than lengthy, she was nudging our palms for extra.
Wild blueberries will be discovered rising alongside many public trails in Maine, particularly up within the mountains, the place situations for rising are proper. Nonetheless, it’s vital to examine and see if berry selecting is permitted on the lands you go to.
Nice Pond Mountain Conservation Belief, which owns and manages the paths on Nice Pond Mountain, permits informal berry selecting on their properties. Nonetheless, the land belief asks that guests not take away wildflowers or different vegetation.
Every place has its guidelines, and they are often pretty detailed. For instance, in Acadia Nationwide Park, blueberry selecting is restricted to at least one dry half-gallon per individual per day, which is lots for those who’re simply selecting just a few to snack on whereas mountain climbing.
The Acadia Superintendent’s Compendium, the place you will discover a protracted checklist of park guidelines, additionally states that berries must be picked in a way that doesn’t injury the rest of the plant. I feel that’s guideline for berry selecting on any property. Whereas selecting, step with care so that you don’t trample the bushes and surrounding vegetation. Attempt to keep on rock surfaces if potential.
Trailside blueberries are a beautiful little deal with, however for those who’re seeking to harvest quantity of blueberries — say for a blueberry pie — your greatest guess is to go to a area. All through Maine, wild blueberries develop in abundance in massive fields which can be usually managed and harvested by farmers.
It’s vital to examine property guidelines or get hold of permission earlier than selecting blueberries from any fields that aren’t your individual. Some blueberry farmers will can help you decide your individual blueberries for a price. These are referred to as “pick-your-own” or “U-pick” farms.
Some blueberry fields are managed by organizations similar to land trusts. Cooper Farm at Caterpillar Hill in Sedgwick is an efficient instance. It’s owned by the Blue Hill Heritage Belief, which permits guests to choose blueberries within the fields.
Maine produces extra wild blueberries than another state within the nation. Final 12 months, we processed 105 million kilos of untamed blueberries. That’s the load of 23 area shuttles.
Our low-bush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium Ait.) is native to northern New England and Atlantic Canada, in accordance with data supplied on-line by the College of Maine Cooperative Extension. It wasn’t planted right here. It naturally inhabits mountain tops and glacial outwash plains that shaped about 10,000 years in the past.
If you happen to ever seen that blueberries typically seem like barely totally different in look, that’s as a result of any given blueberry area can have as many as 1,500 genetically distinct wild blueberry vegetation. This ends in a wide range of berry flavors, shapes and colours.
It’s enjoyable to consider how lengthy folks have loved consuming wild blueberries in Maine, and the way folks have included the berries into a wide range of totally different dishes.
The Indigenous folks of the world have lengthy cultivated and celebrated wild blueberries. The UMaine Cooperative Extension particularly acknowledges the Passamaquoddy Tribe, the Aroostook Band of Micmacs, the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians and the Penobscot Nation communities for passing on their information and expertise with these vegetation.
Blueberries are additionally prized by most of the wild animals that decision Maine house, particularly black bears. Throughout blueberry season, which usually stretches from early July via August, black bear poop is usually only a mass of mashed up blueberries. I’ve seen it on mountain climbing trails many instances.
Fortunately for Juno, blueberries are additionally OK for canine to eat, in accordance with the American Kennel Membership. Wealthy in antioxidants and filled with fiber, they’ll function a nutritious snack for pups. Nonetheless, I’m undecided how a lot Juno truly enjoys the flavour. On Nice Pond Mountain, she would gobble them up from our palms if we provided them to her, however I caught her spitting among the berries again out to chase as they rolled throughout the granite.
Whereas berries make a beautiful trailside snack, remember to correctly establish them earlier than consuming them. Some kinds of berries are poisonous. Luckily, not a lot seems to be or tastes like a blueberry. Huckleberries, that are additionally edible, are black and develop on taller bushes later within the season. They usually develop in the identical space as blueberries, so maintain an eye fixed out for them. They’re inexperienced proper now in July.
I hope you get the chance to take pleasure in Maine’s wild blueberries this season. If you happen to’re not snug figuring out them and selecting them on the path, then purchase some earlier than your hike and revel in them alongside the best way. They’ll add some pep to your step. Simply ask Juno.