Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's Berry Season

We may not have the kind of diversity of fruits growing in Maine that other places have. There are no oranges or bananas, and I hope I don't live to see a mango tree growing wild and unassisted here.

But we do have one thing, in abundance, nearly everywhere one looks (if one is looking), and that's berries.

I've planted raspberries - both black and red - in my yard, but we've found them growing wild all over the place, along with their cousin, the blackberry.

The other berry we have in proliferation is the blueberry, and I had a nice lesson the other day with regard to blueberries.

We have a patch of low bush blueberries near our house. From my experience with them, the low bush varieties usually have very small berries. They're difficult to harvest, because they're low to the ground, and the berries are usually tiny, and so it takes a very long time to get any in quantity. To store any for winter, we want it in quantity.

A few years ago, we went to a PYO high bush blueberry farm. The "bushes" were trees - some taller than I am (who knew a blueberry "bush" could grow so tall?!?) - and the berries were as big as dimes. It was incredible. We spent a half hour and picked 14 lbs.

The problem is that PYO farms are owned by someone and that someone needs to make some money on their berries, and while I'm doing all of the work of picking, they're doing all of the work of keeping those trees happy so that they produce.

Or, as I'm coming to find out, they own the rights to that land, and nature has been very good to them. Seems, once the bushes are in the ground, there's not much else to do, but, maybe, mow around them so that the customers don't have to bushwhack to get to the berries.

The other day, Deus Ex Machina was taking a stroll near where he works. There's a road, with a side walk, running through a fairly wooded area, and he was just strolling down the side walk, when he looked left and saw these bushes - full to bursting with dime-sized blueberries. The bushes were in a tangle of other undergrowth, and it was pretty obvious that, either no one knew there were there, or no one cared that they were there.

Lucky for us.

We went back later that night, after he got off work, and picked a couple of pounds before it got too dark.

It was amazing and reminded us of how nature truly does take care of us, if we just open our eyes to what's out there. Here were these blueberry bushes, several of them in a row, full with huge, ripe berries, the kind I we pay more than $4/lb for at the grocery store or farm stand.

I learned that high bush blueberries are not, strictly, a cultivated variety, and that we can forage berries that are just like the ones we paid for at the PYO place.

But that's not the real lesson. The real lesson lies in the lyrics of a song that was recorded by the late, great Janis Joplin, who says get it while you can.

With any luck, we'll be going back ...


  1. When I was younger my friends used to go blueberry raking in August for the small blueberries. We actually prefer these, but it is hard to find ones that aren't sprayed even though they are technically "wild" blueberries. But, they are extremely sweet, and make the best blueberry pie around :-) I think there is an organic place around Camden where you can go and rake your own.

  2. Right off the highway, at a busy exit, I spotted several apple trees loaded with apples. If it weren't such a busy spot, I'd pull over and pick them! This area used to be nothing but apple orchards, so I'm betting the state bought the land an apple orchard was on to put the highway through and they must have missed a tree or two. There's also an apple tree right on the sharp curve of a mountain road with no shoulders and a steep hill and it's a mere 1/2 mile from me, but no way to get to it. :o(

    Lucky you with your "wild" blueberry find!