Everything you need to know about Wild Blueberries and a trip through Bar Harbor, Maine.
Disclosure: The Wild Blueberry Association of North America covered my travel and accommodations for this trip to Maine. I was not asked to write, nor was I compensated for writing this post. All opinions are my own.
Have I mentioned before that I love my job?? Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Wild Blueberry Harvest Tour in beautiful Bar Harbor, Maine with fellow registered dietitians. I learned everything you need to know about Wild Blueberries and I’m going to share this deliciously awesome info with you and take you with me through an amazing tour of Maine.
Bar Harbor is just exquisite! The view from the Bar Harbor Inn was breathtaking. Waking to the sunrise at 5:30am was totally worth it!
Wild Blueberries 101:
Wild Blueberries emerged on the desolate plain aptly called The Barrens of Maine, Eastern Canada and Quebec, following the retreat of the glaciers more than 10,000 years ago. Unlike regular blueberries, Wild Blueberries are not planted. Instead, they are indigenous and spread naturally where Mother Nature put them, with thousands of genetically different varieties in every field.
The diversity is what gives them their intense, delicious, sweet-tart taste and their spectacular blend of complex flavors.
How they grow and why they taste so good:
Wild blueberries have NEVER been modified by man to alter their naturally occurring characteristics. They have an extensive underground rhizome system with as much as 70% of the plant actually living underground, spreading horizontally in the few inches of organic matter atop the sand and gravel of glacial soil below.
They are grown on a two-year cycle. Each year, half of a grower’s land is pruned to encourage vegetative growth while the other half is prepared for the Wild Blueberry harvest from July through August. They survive and thrive in cold, harsh climates which has a natural benefit of reducing crop insects and pests. This makes them a “low input” crop with fewer pesticides needed.
We had the pleasure of raking wild blueberries ourselves. Mostly harvested by machines, there are still some fields that require raking by hand due to the terrain. Each of these boxes contains 28 pounds of wild blueberries!!!
Health Benefits of Wild Blueberries:
Most people don’t know that there are two kinds of blueberries, Wild Blueberries and regular cultivated blueberries which are vastly different. While both are wonderful nutritionally, Wild Blueberries have twice the antioxidant capacity per serving vs cultivated blueberries.
Wild Blueberries contain:
*A higher skin to pulp ratio equaling more antioxidant rich pigment and more intense blueberry flavor.
*30% less (natural) sugar than cultivated varieties with just 10 grams per one cup serving.
*25% of the recommended daily allowance of fiber (6.2g per cup) which is 72% more than regular blueberries.
Wild blueberries may improve brain, gut and heart health, cancer prevention, reduced risk of diabetes and increased urinary tract health.
How Wild Blueberries boost brain health:
*Antioxidants protect brain cells from oxidative damage.
*Improve neuronal communication in the brain.
*Decrease inflammation in the brain which can lead to cell damage.
*Improve the brain’s use of glucose as fuel.
Several studies in the last few years indicate regular consumption of blueberries and Wild Blueberries are associated with slower cognitive decline and may boost memory.
New studies demonstrate potential to improve brain function in children- focus, memory and attention.
Cardiovascular benefits are mostly linked to antioxidants;
*Improved blood fats (increased HDL, decreased triglycerides and decreased total cholesterol).
*Improved flexibility of blood vessel walls.
*Decreased plaque build-up.
*Decreased oxidative damage to cells.
*Increased overall antioxidant capacity of blood.
*Increased endogenous NOS (nitric oxide synthase)
*Positive impact on blood sugar level of people with diabetes.
*Increase in insulin sensitivity in people with pre-diabetes.
*Anthocyanins may help lower risk of metabolic syndrome.
For access to more research check out https://www.wildblueberries.com/health-research/research/research-library/Everything you need to know about Wild Blueberries @WildBBerries #sponsoredtravel #WBHarvesttour Click To Tweet
Why frozen wild blueberries?
99% of the annual Wild Blueberry harvest is individually quick frozen within 24 hours of harvest and 1% is sold fresh. Research shows that consuming frozen fruits and veggies has advantages over imported fresh foods because their health benefits are locked by freezing them so quickly. It’s like pressing nature’s pause button! Plus, frozen food can help reduce the food waste epidemic in the US.
We enjoyed a tour of the Wyman’s of Maine plant where we watched the Wild Blueberries enter the facility and go through each step until they were frozen and stored. Fascinating! Check out the hair nets 🙂
We not only learned a ton about Wild Blueberries but were treated to some amazing meals and tourist fun! Each expertly planned meal incorporated wild blueberries in the form of blueberry wine, cocktails, cobblers, sauces, salad dressings and good old blueberry pie.
We even took a trolley ride up Cadillac Mountain and enjoyed some gorgeous views.
Lobster dinner took place outside over the water and was the delicious culmination of the trip. When in Maine…you must have lobster. We learned that lobsters have their newer, softer shells this time of year so they are easier to eat. Dinner even came with instructions:
Someone even created lobster ice cream! No kidding, it tried it. It’s kind of like vanilla ice cream with small bits of something you cannot identify. I had less than one teaspoon of it, I can’t imagine a bowl full!
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to bond with fellow RDs and see how wild blueberries are grown first hand. There’s nothing like that experience. Thank you, Wild Blueberry Association of North America and to my RD friends for making this trip such a blast!
Make sure to follow: Meme Inge, Katie Sullivan Morford, Holley Grainger, Elizabeth Shaw, Elizabeth Ward, Edwina Clark, Emily Kyle, Charlotte Martin, and Monique Volz.
For a little inspiration, one of my favorite smoothie bowls is this Toasted Coconut Wild Blueberry Smoothie Bowl!
More to come soon…be on the lookout for my Wild Blueberry Peanutty Protein Smoothie I created for our smoothie making contest during the trip. Stay tuned for the recipe!
And please share your favorite ways to enjoy Wid Blueberries!!! New ideas always welcome 🙂