If you’re traveling in Maine in August, you can’t miss the fact that this is blueberry season! The small, tasty fruits can be found in stores, restaurants, and at roadside stands all over the state. For some, the Maine food experience is as much about fresh wild blueberries as it is about lobster—capping off a traditional lobster dinner with blueberry pie is perfection!
We’re proud of our blueberries. Maine is the #1 producer of blueberries in the world, producing 10% of all the blueberries in North America. The landscape of Maine features 44,000 acres of blueberry fields, which are as scenic as they are productive. The berries are cultivated on naturally occurring low-bush blueberry bushes. They’re smaller than the big cultivated berries produced in other states, but we Mainers think they’re much more flavorful. They’re also high in antioxidants, so good for you too!
On many of the smaller blueberry farms, the berries are still picked the old-fashioned way, by hand-raking. Hand-raking is back-breaking work, but it’s a great way for young people to earn some summer income. Ask a Mainer about the summer jobs he or she had as a kid, and odds are good that they tried raking blueberries at some point.
The berries then move along a conveyor belt where unripe or smashed fruits are removed by hand. The result is a pile of beautiful clean berries!
Most of the photos above were taken at Beech Hill Preserve, a 295-acre property in Rockport owned by Coastal Mountains Land Trust. The land trust organically cultivates 20 acres of the preserve for blueberries, a historic crop on the property. Sale of the berries helps support upkeep of the nature preserve, which features popular hiking trails and a funky old sod-roofed stone hut at the hill’s summit.
To pick your own wild berries, take a hike in the Camden Hills and look for open patches, especially rocky ledges, that offer the sunlight and acidic soil the berries love. You can find ripe berries from late July through August, though most local commercial harvesting has wrapped up by mid-August. And don’t forget to find a copy of the Maine classic BLUEBERRIES FOR SAL to read to the kids!
The annual Union Fair Maine Wild Blueberry Festival crowns a Blueberry Queen each August. Held this year from August 20 – 27, 2016, this traditional country fair also offers a blueberry pie eating contest and blueberry cooking competitions. (Union is about 20 minutes from downtown Camden.)
Several Maine wineries offer blueberry wines. You can also find blueberry beer, vodka, bitters, vinegar, and ice cream, dried blueberries, blueberries in chocolate, and many other yummy blueberry treats to try for yourself or bring home as unique souvenirs of your Maine vacation.