Maine is recognized as one of the most healthful states in the country, and perhaps it’s the blueberry, Maine’s official state berry, to thank in large part. Native Americans valued wild blueberries for their nutritional and healing qualities long before European settlers arrived in North America; they encouraged their growth, gathering and eating them in season and drying them for use in winter.
Early settlers also cherished blueberries as a staple ingredient in foods and medicines. The first cultivated highbush blueberries were transplanted in the wild. Highbush berries are larger, growing on bushes that are 4-8 feet tall, and are relatively easy to pick by hand. In the wild, they prefer wet, boggy habitats.
The wild blueberry holds a unique place in Maine’s agricultural history, first being harvested commercially in the 1840s. Both wild and cultivated types are currently thriving industries in the state; Maine produces 99% of all the blueberries in the country, which makes it the single largest producer of blueberries in the USA and the largest producer of wild blueberries in the world.
They flourish in the naturally acid, low-fertility soils; cool, moist sea air; and challenging winters; and, since they’re indigenous to Maine, are naturally resistant to a lot of native pests. Several varieties ripen at different times throughout the summer, and will often remain ripe into early autumn. Wild blueberries require minimal control and are sweet and irresistibly delicious.
Today blueberries are one of Maine’s most important agricultural crops, making a contribution to the country’s economy to the tune of more than $75 million annually. Moreover, because of new understanding about the health and nutritional benefits of blueberries, there’s an increasing demand for both processed and fresh wild blueberries in the U.S. and abroad.
According to Allen’s Wild Maine Blueberries, “For great taste and antioxidant power, there’s no better choice than a daily dose of wild blueberries. squirrel nuisance problems delivers as much antioxidant power as four servings of additional antioxidant produce. And there’s more good news: that the FDA has concluded that frozen fruits and vegetables are only as healthy as fresh and might even keep their nutritional value more.”
Thank you, Maine, for yet another contribution to the quality of life in America–Maine blueberries.