Sunday, May 30, 2010
The Wild Blueberry...Maine's Native Berry
The Wild Blueberry...Maine's Native Berry
Wild blueberries were first appreciated by the Native Americans, who would dry them for much needed nutrition in the long, hard winter months. They were also used to heal various maladies such as morning sickness, headaches and coughs. The first time these precious little berries were commercially harvested was during the Civil War, when they were canned and sent to Union soldiers.
bushels of Maine blueberries, Maine Blueberrie Farms, Blueberry Recipes Since then, wild blueberries have consistently grown in popularity, in large part due to their incredible nutritional value, their impressively high levels of antioxidants, and their ability to help in the prevention of cancer. Maine produces over 90 percent of the wild blueberry crops harvested each year in the United States. This adds up to approximately 30 million pounds of blueberries a year!
Wild blueberries are smaller than their cultivated counterparts, and have a more intense, tangy-sweet flavor. The wild crops have the advantage of a broad range of variations which provide their distinctive flavor. Wild blueberries are often referred to as lowbush blueberries, while the cultivated berries are referred to as highbush blueberries. Cultivated blueberries are mostly hybrids, thus allowing more successful growth in other parts of both the United States and the rest of the world.
Maine blueberries Wild blueberries are not planted, but tended to, and encouraged to grow in a healthy and supportable way. The glacial fields and barrens of Maine provide an ideal combination of soil and climate which enables these vitamin-packed berries to flourish for thousands of years. Wild blueberry crops are maintained by farmers who own the land they grow on, and many farmers have been doing so for generations.
The wild blueberry bush has a 2 year cycle, which means that every other year a blueberry bush will produce berries. During the year that no berries are produced, the farmers try to help the vegetative growth to increase. This helps the general health of the blueberry bush as a whole plant. During a blueberry-producing year, the plant is prepared for an August harvest, when the blueberries will be ready for picking.
When August comes and it's time to harvest the wild blueberries, a special kind of rake is used. It was created by a Mainer from the Downeast area by the name of Abijah Tabbutt over 100 years ago. Since then this special rake has undergone some minor variations. This rake is closed-tined and still in prevalent use today. In fact, some wild blueberry-picking farms provide them to visitors.
Maine's 60,000 acres of wild blueberries grow naturally in fields and barrens that stretch from Downeast to the state's southwest corner. Adapted to Maine's naturally acid, low fertility soils and challenging winters, wild blueberries are a low input crop requiring minimal management. The berries are grown on a two-year cycle — each year, half of a grower's land is managed to encourage vegetative growth and the other half is prepared for a wild blueberry harvest in August. After the harvest the plants are pruned to the ground by mowing or burning.
Wild blueberries hold a special place in Maine's agricultural history — one that goes back centuries to Maine's Native Americans. Native Americans were the first to use the tiny blue berries, both fresh and dried, for their flavor, their nutrition and their healing qualities and it was not until the 1840's that wild blueberries were first harvested commercially. As a symbol of Maine's agricultural heritage — a heritage that respects and values the environment — growers consider the future well-being of the land in their management practices, allowing neighbors and visitors to continue to enjoy some of Maine's most scenic vistas and precious wildlife habitats.
Integrated Crop Management
Because wild blueberries are indigenous to Maine, they are naturally resistant to many native pests. Still, there are times when environmental stressors such as disease, drought, insect pest damage and winter injury can ruin much of the fruit and it is a grower's challenge to minimize such crop damage.Here is a recipe I like alot:
Apple Blueberry cake
3 cups flour
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup blueberries
4 large apples -- pared, peeled, and sliced
Place all ingredients except cinnamon/sugar and fruit in large bowl and beat until smooth. Pour 1/3 of batter in ungreased tube pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar and spread 1/3 of the apples and 1/2 cup blueberries over batter. Repeat 2 more times, but do not put blueberries on top layer (they will burn).
Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 1-1/2 hours or until done. Remove from pan and let cool well before slicing.
Variations: Substitute raspberries for blueberries. Eliminate blueberries.