Blueberries are native only to North America. Wild Maine blueberries, like Maine lobster, are the best — finest kind. They are small and full of flavor, unlike the larger ones that grow higher off the ground in places like New Jersey, Oregon and Washington. Our friends in Maine will sometimes eat the larger, inferior blueberries from away but that’s an anomaly.
Blueberries are raked and it is difficult and back-breaking work. If you are good at it, you can make a big wad of cash during the season, typically the month of August. In the 90’s, that’s how teenagers in our town earned money to buy a car. Camille raked blueberries one day and that was enough. Sam did it for a while longer than that.
Here in California, we have found wild Maine blueberries, as well as those grown in the Maritime provinces at Trader Joe’s, in the frozen section under their own brand. Generally, Denise uses them for baking and my personal favorite is a coffee cake recipe she got from the baker at a country store in Maine. She had a good rep in town and the gentleman was happy to share it with her, under the condition that she never used it commercially and with the understanding that we were heading back to California. The secret was the crusty, sugary, tart, blueberry top on the cake.
You can buy blueberries in a variety of ways, but we prefer the roadside stand where you leave your money in a jar. By the way, this is a common practice in Maine for selling anything from camp wood to blueberries to pies or baked goods. Many of the stands will have a sign advertising blueberrys. Don’t be fooled by this marketing ploy — the obvious misspelling gives the stand or display a down-home, rural ambience. Denise enjoys blueberries al fresco and one at a time.