August is organic wild blueberry harvesting month in Lac-Saint-Jean (Quebec, Canada). And since these little blue pearls are the stars of our new Patience Fruit & Co snack, we ventured deep into blueberry growing territory to find out everything there is to know about the “wild” side of this little berry.
It goes without saying that we made our way to Lac-Saint-Jean with great pleasure. We paid a visit to our main producer of wild blueberries: Quebec Wild Blueberries, on a beautiful sunny August day. The charming team from Oatbox was eager to join us and, like us, were very interested in the virtues of this little blue berry. We strongly suggest taking a look at their delectable September box, filled with delicious products made using wild blueberries: www.oatbox.com/en/
An enchanting setting
As soon as we arrived at the blueberry farm we were awestruck at the sight of these fields, brimming with berries so blue. It was a sight worthy of a postcard! The weather was perfect, not too hot! Everything was so well set up; it was almost hard to believe that they were wild.
As Francois-Daniel, business development representative at Quebec Wild Blueberries kindly explained, the wild blueberry population is managed in a way that facilitates harvesting and crop performance. Previously, when the technology hadn’t yet been developed, wild blueberries were harvested by hand, directly in the forest. Today, this technique does not represent more than 5% of the total production of organic wild blueberries harvested in Lac-Saint-Jean, since small tractors are now custom-made for this purpose.
A small berry that stands out
As soon as we arrived, we had to hold ourselves back from devouring everything that we saw on our path because it was very much like being at an all you can eat berry buffet, packed with antioxidants! And when they’re organic, it’s somehow even more tempting to dig right in. And the taste, by golly that taste…how to describe it? Sweet, unique, sublime! The taste alone was honestly worth the trip! It’s not surprising that Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean is the largest producer of blueberries in the world!
As François-Daniel explained on our walk, wild blueberries are considered to be local gems and contribute enormously to the local economy.
During our little walk in the fields, we of course had the pleasure of taking several cliché pictures, but also to ask our friend François-Daniel all sorts of questions! To name a few, we asked him what distinguished wild blueberries from traditional blueberries grown on farms. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Their taste and nutritional benefits
Wild blueberries are sweeter and more colourful. In fact, they contain twice the amount of antioxidants as their cousins grown on plantations1.
2. Their propagating methods
Wild blueberry plants are impossible to transplant! They only grow naturally! Also, there are only two ways to incite the expansion of wild blueberries: forest fires and trimming of existing plantations.
3. Their size
The wild blueberry is a dwarf blueberry that grows close to the ground, while plantation blueberries grown on shrubs that can be planted just about anywhere and can reach heights that exceed 180 cm.
After devouring over a pound of wild blueberries each (no joke!) and capturing a few memories, it was time to head home and say goodbye to this beautiful blue county. But what to say about the countless images that filled our heads and the sense of pride we felt for being able to grow such a delicious little fruit, here, at home! One thing was for sure, despite its small size, our wild blueberry needn’t feel threatened by the other berries of this world!
We sincerely hope that we have given you reason to visit this beautiful part of Québec. Meanwhile, if reading this article worked up your appetite, there is now a new snack with local dried wild blueberries available in many grocery stores and natural food stores around all of Québec!