I know it is still winter but if you are planning a summer holiday, now is the time to start taking suggestions. I have to tell you one of the greatest times I ever had was picking blueberries. The blueberry is native to Maine and they can be found growing everywhere all over the state in fields and barrens. That is because they thrive in the state's naturally low acid soils.
They are also a hardy crop that can survive Maine's cold winters. Wild blueberries contribute more than 75 million dollars to Maine's economy. Thirty million pounds of blueberries are grown in the state annually.
Although you can buy them commercially it is a real tradition to go picking wild blueberries. Even commercial growers don't tend to plant them or cultivate them. They just happen to own the land on which they grow.
Blueberry picking is a tradition that started centuries ago with the Native Americans of the area. They were the first to use these tiny sharp tasting berries as food and medicine. They weren't actually harvested commercially until the 1840s.
Most of the blueberry bushes can be found on â€˜the barrens.' These are vast rolling plains of sandy soil that were formed by the glaciers and that perfectly suit the growing of low bush blueberries. Other plants that grow in these barrens are rhodora, tea-berry, laurel and bracken.
These blueberries are a dark velvety blue and quite tiny. Other than in a few spots in Canada they really are not found anywhere else in the world.
The best time for anyone to pick blueberries is in August. Any frost will kill these delicate tiny berries so it is always done way before frost can set it.
Harvesting is done on blueberry farms using a special rake that was invented over 100 years ago. The rake is designed to release the berries from the low vines without crushing them.
There are scores of wonderful pick-your-own farms in Maine.
In Adroscoggin County try Card's Farm or Goss BerryFarm. You can pick your own raspberry and blueberries from dusk to dawn at both places.
In Aroostook County there is Circle B Farms which has six acres of blueberries for PYO (pick your own?) In Aroostookt here is also McNally's Farm, Mac's Best Produce and Hebert Farm.
In Cumblerland County you can pick your own at Crabtree's Blueberries and The Stewart's Farm.
In Franklin County there is Firth's Fruit Farm and the Peace and Plenty Farm. The Peace and Plenty Farm sells organic wild sour top Maine blueberries.
In Hancock County you can pick your own in marshy blueberry barrens at Hog Bay Blueberries.
In Kennebec County you can pick blueberries as well as pick up a little Maple Syrup for blueberry pancakes at Wagner's Maple Sugar House.
In Lincoln County you can get big organic wild blueberries at Crummet Mountain Farm.
In Washington County you can pick them and buy nationally known preserves at Blue Barrens Farm.
In Walso county, both Staples Homestead and Sewall's Orchards offer blueberry picking.
York County is the home of the famous Blueberry Hill Farm that offers a staggering ten acres of blueberries!