Everyone knows Maine for their lobster, but many don’t know about the delicious wild blueberries! As the world’s top producer, this beloved state fruit is so valuable to Maine’s economy that they dedicated a weekend celebration every August known as Wild Blueberry Weekend. I’m sure if wild blueberries could talk, they’d be honored. 😉
Whether you’re a local Mainer or thinking about taking a journey to the state, you don’t want to miss this fun and tasty event supporting local, independent and family-owned businesses all over Maine this Summer! From restaurants and bars to shops and farms, read on for my tasty adventures all over Maine. I was even featured on TV!
In this blog, I share…
- What is a wild blueberry?
- The difference between a wild blueberry and an “ordinary” (cultivated) blueberry
- Why wild blueberries are better
- Why Maine is an ideal place to grow wild blueberries
- Wild Blueberry Weekend in Maine
- What to wear on a farm
There’s so much to love about wild blueberries. Can we start with the fact that they taste good in pretty much everything… As I mention later in this blog, you can’t go wrong with pie, pancakes, ice cream, smoothies, muffins, or even beer or a cocktail infused with this delicious and antioxidant rich fruit!
What is a Wild Blueberry?
We’ve been throwing around the word “wild” a lot. So, what are wild blueberries anyway and what the heck is the difference between “wild” blueberries and the ordinary (a.k.a. “cultivated”) blueberries you can pick up in pints at the grocery store? Before I became a Mainer, I knew nothing about wild blueberries so, if you don’t know either, you’re not alone!
Basically, all you need to know is that wild blueberries are better than any ordinary blueberry you’re ever going to try. 😉
You can freeze wild blueberries! Pick some at Wild Blueberry Weekend while they’re at their peak and throw them in the freezer for some tasty recipes down the road. Can’t make it to Wild Blueberry Weekend in Maine? Head to the freezer section of your local grocery store.
Wild Blueberry vs. Cultivated Blueberry
Here are some fun facts about these impressive berries.
Basically, Wild Blueberries Are Better Because…
- They contain 2x as many antioxidants (which help fight cancer and lower inflammation).
- They’re more flavorful and sweeter than cultivated berries which are often tasteless.
- They’re smaller, which means you get more nutrients per serving.
- They grow naturally unlike ordinary blueberries which have to be planted. Wild blueberries are “lowbush blueberries” whereas Ordinary blueberries are “highbush blueberries”.
- They’re fresher, being picked at their peak in the Summer and most of the time, frozen within 24 hours unlike ordinary blueberries which are picked weeks before they’re ripe, before they’re transported to stores thousands of miles away.
What Makes Maine an Ideal Spot for Wild Blueberries to Grow?
Wild blueberries thrive best in moist, shallow soils that are dry and highly acidic. They can be found growing in the coolest of climates, which is what makes Maine’s glacial soil a perfect spot for them to grow! You’ll find them ripe and ready to pick come Summer after a harsh Winter and Spring.
Being able to withstand harsher growing conditions means they have a wide range of different varieties, therefore boasting more complex flavors ranging from tart and tangy to sweet and succulent. In this video, I get a one-on-one tour with Peggy Varney, a Maine wild blueberry farmer who walked me out to her field and shared so much awesome info on the growing process.
Wild Blueberry Weekend in Maine
Imagine my excitement when shortly after buying a house and moving to Maine, I discovered Maine’s first annual Wild Blueberry Weekend!
All over the state, you’ll find local businesses participating in the special event… restaurants, bars, distilleries, wineries, breweries, shops, farms, you name it. They’ll be there to welcome you with scrumdiddlyumptious sweet surprises this year.
My Wild Blueberry Picking Adventures
Every August, when the wild blueberries are at their peak, Wild Blueberry Weekend is on! All over the state, I got to taste just about every concoction imaginable that Maine’s local businesses were creating with this iconic fruit. But, one place stood out to me more than any other.
- Varney Family Farm | Chesterville, ME
If you want the full Wild Blueberry Weekend experience, check out Varney Farm whose been passed down from generation to generation since 1855. This authentic, interactive adventure will leave you with more than a good taste in your mouth. From beginning to end, you’ll be walked through the process of harvesting, picking and packaging wild blueberries! You can even take some home!
I got to be a wild blueberry farm girl for the day and loved every minute of it! Before I share my adventures, I’ll share the farm’s lovely history.
A Wild Blueberry Farm That Runs in the Family
From a distance, the farm seems to be nothing more than a modest farmhouse surrounded by acres of grassy field. Take a closer look and tiny berries smaller than a pea will appear. They’ve been cared for by the Varney family for many years.
Originally, when purchased in 1885, the farm raised cow and sheep. The wild blueberry field was always there but the idea for a U-pick and We-Pick-it-For-You farm wasn’t conceived until George Varney, the original owner’s grandson, inherited the land.
In 1968, his son Mel took over the farm and became so fed up with it, that he tried to mow it down. But, wild blueberries, the resistant suckers that they are.. thrive in harsh conditions and grew there anyway. After Mel passed, his son Chauncey and his wife Peggy purchased the land from his mother, Ruth. They’ve been running it with their children and grandchildren ever since.
After learning about the farm’s history, I was excited to come out for Wild Blueberry Weekend where I got to meet Peggy Varney herself. It wasn’t long before she sweetly offered me a tour of the 22-acre farm.
Bees and Honey
Walking me out to the wild blueberry field, she entertained me with stories about blueberries, pie, bees, honey and the promise of a taste of their latest batch of wild blueberry honey.
On the way to the field, Peggy showed me what the “bee condos” which have an upstairs for the bees to live in during the Summer and a downstairs for the Winter. She explained how they make flavored honey. “As the bees pollinate the wild blueberries, they bring the nectar back to the hive and if you extract the honey right after the pollination, then you end up with blueberry honey.” Needless to say, I was excited to try some!
She explained that you should only buy honey locally, not from the store. Unless it’s locally made, even if it says organic, you have no idea what it is. “We’re getting our honey from China. China sends to Vietnam, Vietnam sends to other countries. It’s watered down and processed”. This year they started demanding testing on the honey.
The raw honey that they produce lasts forever. It even has its own bacterium.
After all this talk of honey, I was starting to get really hungry! So, of course I jumped at the chance to sample some of the blueberries we picked together in the field.
Picking the Wild Blueberry Fields
There are 137 different types of blueberries of which I sampled about 10. Peggy encouraged me to seek out different colors in the field which are called “clones” (a.k.a. varieties). It was incredible how many complex flavors there were in a single, tiny little berry. There were a bunch scattered all over the field.
I was having so much fun picking and eating them with her as she gave me a lesson in wild blueberries. We’d pick and eat, pick and eat…
Peggy was such a joy to talk to. It’s hard to believe that she came into the farm with her husband knowing nothing about farming blueberries. She taught me a lot.
I also met Peggy’s daughter, Sylvia who said, “every time you see a different color, you’re going to have a different flavor. There’s one flavor that tastes kind of like bubble gum, almost like a Hubba Bubba type of flavor”. 😊
Look ma I’m on TV! The newscaster reporting on Wild Blueberry Weekend for NEWS CENTER Maine got us picking wild blueberries in the field! (see video)
I was enjoying the tasty berries so much that I almost forgot my mission… to take wild blueberries home!
After collecting them in my basket, I headed back over to the farmhouse where Peggy’s grandchildren were busy sorting through berries, selecting the best ones to be packaged and sold. It seems like a very time intensive process. I was impressed with their level of concentration.
Finally, to wrap up my visit at Varney Farm, I was given a taste of blueberry wildflower honey just like Peggy promised. I walked away with a lot of tasty berries and several different flavors of honey.
It was nice to meet these salt of the earth, wholesome people. Don’t end your visit without a sit on the vintage tractor they have!
Check Out Varney Farm!
The farm doesn’t have a website. Call ahead to confirm hours.
Address: 8 Sanborn Hill Rd, Chesterville, ME 04938
Get My Farm Girl Look
More Places Participating in Maine’s Wild Blueberry Weekend
After a fun day picking blueberries at Varney Farm, I went to a local treasure right here in Maine, Gifford’s Ice Cream, which I treat myself to quite frequently. 😉
- Gifford’s Ice Cream | Farmington, ME
Maine’s own Giffords Ice Cream started as a small dairy farm whipping up single batches to neighbors using family recipes and local ingredients. Now, they’re a 5x winning Ice Cream Grand Champion at Dairy World Expo!
After getting my farmer girl on, I went for 3 scoops of different flavored wild blueberry ice cream! As always, it was delicious. They have multiple locations; I went to their Farmington one. If you can’t make it to a Giffords in Maine, you can get them in a store. See if Giffords is sold at a store near you.
- Otto’s on the River | Augusta, ME
To celebrate another Real Girl Review anniversary, I went to Otto’s on the River the week before Wild Blueberry Weekend and had a delicious roasted duck with wild blueberry maple glaze. They have outdoor seating which makes it a great place to visit over the Summer in Maine’s state capital, Augusta.
- Bluet | Scarborough, ME
Have you ever tried wild blueberry sparkling wine? I have, it’s delicious! Get your hands on some by stopping into Bluet’s location or, order from their online store.
- Wild Blueberry Land | Columbia Falls, ME
This kitschy place is so cute. They take the “wild blueberry” theme to the next level with life-sized blueberries at the entrance. Here, you’ll find a museum, bakery and gift shop full of baked goods to shop your way into a wild blueberry coma until you’re blue in the face a la Violet Beauregarde! 🙂
I came during the Winter when the shop was closed but couldn’t resist taking a pic with a giant blueberry. Make sure to come in the Summer!
More Places to Try in Maine During Wild Blueberry Weekend
These places are not listed as participating in Wild Blueberry Weekend but I’ve experienced blueberry themed food and drink from them all year-round.
- Farmhouse Beer Garden | Farmington, ME
This fun restaurant/bar farmhouse barn hangout has a great selection of beer on tap from local Maine breweries like Sea Dog. Try a tasty pint of their Wild Blueberry Wheat Ale, it’s one of my favorites!
- Bistro on Eden | Bar Harbor, ME
Staying at Atlantic Oceanside Hotel in Bar Harbor, I found this great restaurant inside which was my first introduction to Maine’s famous wild blueberries. After a great meal, I had a sweet tooth and ordered a slice of blueberry pie complimented by a blueberry martini made from local wild blueberries, cointreau and Maine’s own Cold River Blueberry Vodka.
It inspired me to make my own wild blueberry cocktail at home…
Try a Wild Blueberry Recipe!
With pints of fresh picked wild blueberries, I woke up the next morning, feeling wild! I was in a blueberry kind of mood! 😉 I found so many different ways to eat them over the coming week… Wild blueberry pancakes, muffins, smoothies, cocktails, you name it! Check out these tasty recipes.
That’s a Wrap!
It was great to be able to attend the first Wild Blueberry Weekend in Maine. I came away with such a greater appreciation and respect for the local, independent and family-owned wild blueberry farms, producers and distributors of Maine who make the community what it is. This event will definitely be a new Summer tradition for my family and I!
Don’t worry if you can’t make it out in August for Wild Blueberry Weekend. You’ll find Maine’s state fruit in food and drinks in shops, restaurants and bars all around Maine any time of year!
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed this blog. Would you go to Wild Blueberry Weekend? Do you have any similar experiences to this? Comment below!
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