Northern New England Blueberry Fields
Blueberry Picking – A Fun New England Summer Activity
It was the Native Americans who first to recognized the blueberry as being very healthful. This little berry was used to cure stomach problems, headaches, and coughs. They would be dried and stored for eating during the winter months when not much grows and nutrious foods were harder to come by. The first time that these precious little berries were harvested commercially was during the Civil War when they were canned and sent to the Union soldiers.
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The domestication of the blueberry was accomplished by a Dr. Coville. He was a USDA researcher who was experimenting on wild blueberries trying to find a way to cultivate them. The first blueberry plants that he chose to experiment on were from Greenfield New Hampshire.
Wild blueberries are smaller than their cultivated counterparts. The wild berries also have a more intense, tangy-sweet flavor. The wild crop also has the advantage of having a variety of wild blueberry variations, providing its distinctive flavor. The wild blueberries are also known as lowbush blueberries and the cultivated berries are known as highbush blueberries. The cultivated blueberries are mostly hybrids, thus allowing them to grow in other parts of the country and the world.
Wild blueberries are not planted. They are tended to and encouraged to grow in a healthy and supportable way. The glacial fields and barrens of Maine provide the ideal soil and climate that has enabled these berries to flourish for thousands of years. The wild blueberry crops are maintained by the farmers who own the land that they grow on and many have been doing so for generations.
The wild blueberry has a 2 year cycle, this means that every other year a blueberry bush will produce berries. During the year that no berries are produced the farmers tending to them try to help the vegetative growth to increase this will help in the general health of the blueberry bush as a whole. During a blueberry year the plant is prepared for a harvest in August, 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 provided visitors with them.
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