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All Blueberries, All the Time!

It’s blueberry season in Maine! Whether baked into a morning muffin or a luscious pie or muddled into a minty mojito or a crisp IPA, locally grown blueberries are here and in stock at Native Maine! Choose Maine’s own tiny, sweet, antioxidant rich wild blueberries or the larger, great-for-snacking local high bush variety. Both are delicious, versatile, ready to eat and grown locally!

wild blueWild Blueberries thrive only in the glacial soils and northern climate of Maine, Atlantic Canada and Quebec. Wild Blueberries are one of three berries native to North America; Concord grapes and cranberries are the others. Native North Americans believed the wild blueberry had magical powers and were sent by the Great Spirit to alleviate hunger during times of starvations. Early immigrants to this area learned how to use and harvest wild blueberries from native people. Wild Blueberries were first harvested commercially in Maine during the Civil War, when they were canned and used to feed the Union Army. Today, Maine is the leading producer of 'wild' or lowbush blueberries, harvesting 91.1 million pounds in 2012. 99% of this wild blueberry crop is frozen. In 1991 Maine designated the Wild Blueberry as the Official State Berry. Blueberry Pie was declared our official state dessert in 2011.

In the early 20th century, people didn’t think wild blueberries could be domesticated. However, Elizabeth White, daughter of a New Jersey farmer, thought differently. In 1911, she teamed up with USDA botanist, Frederick Coville, to create vibrant new blueberry varieties by cross breeding wild plants. In 1916, the team harvested and sold the first commerical crop of high bush blueberries. Today’s blueberries are nutritionally rich and have the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits and vegetables’ including anthocyanins, the plant pigments that give them their deep purplish-blue color.The U.S. is the world’s largest producer of blueberries. In 2012, the U.S. harvested a total of 564.4 million pounds of cultivated and wild blueberries.

highbush blueHere’s a fun fact: if all the blueberries grown in North America in one year were spread out in a single layer, they would cover a four-lane highway that stretched from New York to Chicago! Blueberries are the second most important commercial berry crop in the United States, behind only strawberries. (And, what do you call a sad strawberry? A blueberry! (Okay, enough jokes!)) New Jersey designated the Highbush Blueberry as its Official State Fruit in 2004; the blueberry muffin is the official muffin of Minnesota. Nationally, April 28 is Blueberry Pie Day, and July 10 is Blueberry muffin day! Blueberries are popular!

How are Wild Blueberries different from cultivated blueberries?

  • Unlike highbush blueberries wild blueberries are not planted. They are spread primarily by rhizomes or underground runners, which give rise to new shoots and stems.
  • Wild blueberry fields and barrens contain many different varieties of berries, which accounts for the variations in size and color that characterize the wild blueberry crop.
  • Wild blueberries contain a greater number and variety of phytochemicals than cultivated blueberries, including up to 26 different anthocyanin compounds that help them survive in the rugged environment. “They’re not pampered like the cultivated blueberries,” which are bred for sweetness, size and ability to withstand shipping, Dr. Mary Ann Lila, Director of the Plants for Human Health Institute at North Carolina State University said. “They produce these berries under extreme stress, building up the phytochemicals that help them withstand the harsh wild conditions.”
  • Wild Blueberries have a more intense, sweet and tangy taste than cultivated blueberries
  • Wild Blueberries are naturally smaller and more compact (less water content) than cultivated, which means you get more blueberries per pound.
  • Wild Blueberries hold their shape, texture and color through a variety of baking and manufacturing process.
  • They also freeze very well: IQF Wild Blueberries maintain their quality for more than two years. Recently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration concluded that frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh.

Choose wild or high bush blueberries, but choose local when you can!

Make This! Blueberry Mojito
2 drinks

10 fresh mint leaves, any type will do
2 teaspoons sugar 
1 cup fresh blueberries, wild or highbush
4 ounces light rum
3 limes, 2 juiced and 1 cut into wedges 
6 ounces club soda 

Muddle together the mint and sugar in a cocktail shaker. Add the blueberries and lightly muddle. Add the rum, lime juice and some ice and shake vigorously. Fill two tall glasses with ice, then pour 3 ounces club soda into each. Divide the rum mixture evenly between the glasses and stir gently. Garnish with a lime wedge, a few blueberries and a sprig of mint, and serve.

Contacting Native Maine

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Native Maine Produce & Specialty Foods

10 Bradley Drive
Westbrook, ME 04092-2011

(207) 856-1100 Phone
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