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Homegrown Heroes are Wild, Blue and Full of Antioxidants: Maine’s Season to Celebrate Wild Blueberries Begins

Mid Summer is harvest time for hundreds of local Wild Blueberry producers as their nutritious, delicious crops hit peak ripeness. Mouth-watering expressions of local pride for the cherished fruit flourish this season, and this summer’s regional celebrations are bigger and better than ever, reflecting the Wild Blueberry’s growing popularity.

PORTLAND, Maine—August 7, 2008 — Harvest time is here for the delicious, nutritious lowbush Wild Blueberry, and this year’s crop promises to be a particular source of pride for Maine. Downeast Maine’s hundreds of producers spend two full years preparing for the harvest season when they will process millions of pounds of Wild Blueberries for the public to enjoy. For regions of Maine, this summer’s harvest will set in motion lively displays of regional pride for the crop, through fairs, festivals and opportunities to learn about the special tradition of this delicious, nutritious local fruit at a time when the excitement surrounding the Wild Blueberry is at its peak.

The harvest, which begins in late July and continues through August, is the culmination of a long, unique history. The antioxidant-rich Wild Blueberry establishes itself naturally, thriving through challenging winters and low-fertility soil, in barrens and fields that stretch from Canada and Downeast Maine to the state’s southwest corner, for thousands of years. Many of today’s independent, family-owned growers in Maine have been in the Wild Blueberry business for generations, with the oldest commercial blueberry processing company dating back to 1874.

This naturally established berry is different from the highbush cultivated berry — it is smaller, has a distinctive sweet-tart taste, and is higher in antioxidants, and it naturally produces a spectrum of variations in color and size. Processing the millions of Wild Blueberries that are produced each year involves hand raking or machine harvesting, followed by sorting, cleaning and processing the berries within hours of being picked using state-of-the-art technology to preserve their flavor, quality and antioxidant capacity. While some are sold fresh locally, Wild Blueberries are primarily individually quick frozen (IQF) using a method that allows for the fast preservation of taste and nutrition. (Find our more about the Wild Blueberry harvesting process.)

Around the world, demand for Wild Blueberries has skyrocketed, thanks to growing awareness of the health benefits inherent in Nature’s Antioxidant SuperFruit. Their potential role in cancer prevention, heart health, brain health, and vision health, including promising new research about the Wild Blueberry’s role in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease, has increased demand and heightened its already-glamorous profile. Consequently, the harvest makes a major contribution to the economies of Maine and Canada; in Maine alone, producers bring over 70 million pounds of Wild Blueberries to consumers each year, and the crop has a market value of more than $190 million annually.

“Harvest time is always a source of pride and celebration in Maine and Canada,” said Greg Bridges of Bridges Wild Blueberry Company and spokesperson for the Wild Blueberry Association of North America. “The area’s wealth of local fairs and festivals that focus on the Wild Blueberry during harvest time offer an ideal opportunity for the public to discover the wonders of this local gem and to learn about why we take so much pride in this powerful, antioxidant-rich fruit. We encourage everyone to take part in these events that highlight Wild Blueberries, and to learn more about the dedicated work of Wild Blueberry growers responsible for making them available to consumers year-round.”

Popular events that celebrate harvest time include August’s Wild Blueberry Festival in Machias (August 15-17). The festival is dedicated to the crop’s history and culture, and features exhibits, lectures, a Blueberry Musical Comedy, and a popular baking and pie-eating contest. In Union, Maine, the Union Fair (August 17-23) holds a Wild Blueberry pancake breakfast, and presents a film that features the cultivating and harvesting methods of Maine’s Wild Blueberry. During this fair’s Wild Blueberry Festival Day, thousands of Wild Blueberry pies will be cooked and served free to all fair patrons, and a variety of Wild Blueberry culinary delights, including muffins, coffee cakes, crisps, and pastries will be available. The Wild Blueberry Association of Northern America offers a current list of all of fairs and festivals that celebrate the Wild Blueberry during this busy harvest time that promises to be one of the state’s most exciting.

About the Wild Blueberry Association of North America

The Wild Blueberry Association of North America is a trade association of growers and processors of Wild Blueberries from Maine, dedicated to bringing the Wild Blueberry health story and unique Wild Advantages to consumers and the trade worldwide. To learn more about Wild Blueberries visit wildblueberries.com
SOURCE: Wild Blueberry Association of North America