Blueberry Season

Blueberry season is almost upon us! On the Victoria Day weekend there were lots of blooms on blueberry bushes which was an excellent sign.

blueberry blossoms
photo cred: Louise McGrath

There are also a lot of black flies this spring which bodes well for blueberries. I don’t recall where I heard this little tidbit of info – and perhaps it’s pure folklore – but I heard that when there is a healthy crop of blackflies there will be a good crop of blueberries. You can cipher this in many ways, I suppose. If there are few black flies, the spring season is so HOT that not only the black flies have been killed off, but the blossoms have too.  Or, if there are no black flies there is nothing to pollinate the blossoms. Whatever the reason, there does seem to be a correlation. Feel free to weigh in on this!!

Last year was a banner year for blueberries – all of the right forces came together to make it so: sun, water, and pollination. The season started off at the typical time, approximately the 2nd week of June, and extended for a few weeks after. Here’s a look at some of the bushes early in the season last year:

It’s nice to see berries at a variety of stages – green, purple and blue (ready to pick).

Fast Facts about Blueberries

There have been many interesting articles published about blueberries over the years – likely there are a few good ones in the Cottage Life magazines that sit in our cabins and cottages. Here are some fast facts that I’ve gleaned from online articles, just for you:

  • lowbush blueberries are another name for wild blueberries (aka vaccinium angustifolium)
  • Canada is the world’s largest producer of lowbush blueberries (mostly in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces)
  • wild blueberries have less water in them than farmed blueberries, which is why they have a sweeter, more intense flavour and are considerably smaller
  • wild blueberries have twice as many antioxidants as cultivated blueberries
  • wild blueberries grow in acidic soil, in open conifer forests as well as in boggy areas
  • the whitish “bloom” on berries are a sign of freshness (they give the berry a pale blue look)
  • as blueberry plants get older they are less productive – but you can “renovate them” according to this Cottage Life article
  • none of the blueberry’s nutrients or antioxidant properties are lost by freezing (best to eat within 2 years though)

Blueberry Picking

Having grown up on the lake I was inaugurated into blueberry picking at a very young age. When you’re young it’s a tremendously boring enterprise (as I recall), even when special snacks and drinks wrapped in tinfoil are brought along. As an adult it seems fantastically rewarding. Go figure!

There are a few things that I learned at a young age that have remained the same over the years. They are basically unwritten “code” for berry pickers:

  • if you’re going to a well known spot on the lake, you’d better go early in the season or they’ll be loooonng gone
  • if you get to a place where someone is already picking – be friendly and respectful and give them lots of space (i.e., don’t yell “oh man! someone stole our spot!!” lol)
  • when scouting out new locations, stick to Crown land – don’t go on someone’s property even if they’re not there
  • wear shoes with good gripping soles, long pants, a long shirt and a hat – LIGHT COLOURS preferably – even though it’s bloody hot … this extreme outer wear protects you from the sun, horseflies and prickly bushes
  • take water, sunscreen and bug juice!
  • never rest your basket on a rock – bad things happen (everyone has a story …)
blueberries in the boat
Note that one basket is picked “cleaner” than the other …

Cleaning and Storing the Berries

Once you’re back to the cottage you’ll need to do something with all of those berries. Best to clean them straight away. This does NOT involve rinsing them! Keep them dry until right up before you use them. They’ll stay fresh a lot longer – up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Keep them in a cardboard basket as it absorbs moisture and keeps them fresh longer.

Be sure to pick all of the stems, leaves, red berries, green berries and ants out of the berries. This is a fairly boring enterprise, but necessary!

If you decide to freeze the berries, it’s best that they are dry so that they don’t stick together. Some people lay them on a cookie sheet and freeze them before putting them in freezer bags. That’s dedication!

Recipes

Here are some of my favourite recipes (links are below them). They are all from smittenkitchen.com which is a favourite website of mine.

Best Blueberry Muffins with a bit of lemon zest and some turbinado sugar on top. Awesome!

 

Best Buttermilk Pancakes. So tasty!

 

Blueberry Crumb Cake. Moist, sweet and packs in a LOT of blueberries (2 cups or more…).

 

Blueberry Boy Bait. This sheet cake is sooooo buttery. It has a thin layer of cinnamon sugar on top.

Do you have a favourite recipe? For blueberry pie perhaps? (My aunt Donna is the pie baker in the family.) If so, please consider sharing it in the comment section.

blog post and photos by Janice Mackenzie

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *