How to pick this summer’s best wild blueberries

Baskets of wild blueberries

This article was originally published in the Summer 2016 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

Blueberry season ramps up in the summer, and all cottagers know that the wild ones have a rep—for being superior to their cultivated counterparts, that is. What are you waiting for? Pick, eat, repeat!

According to the Wild Blueberry Association of North America, thousands of years of natural genetic diversity make these berries tastier. This wild-is-best cred isn’t marketing. (Okay, some of it is marketing.) But compared to cultivated berries, wild ones indeed “have a more intense flavour,” says Richard Hebda, the curator of botany and Earth history at the Royal BC Museum. This is because they contain less water. Or maybe it’s because you’ve picked them yourself, says Kevin Schooley, the executive director of the Ontario Berry Growers Association. “Psychologically, they taste better because you’ve sweated over them.”

Pick ’em

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• Wild blueberries grow in most of Canada, low to the ground in acidic soil, often near boggy areas, as well as in open conifer forests.

• Look for berries “with a little bit of bloom—that silvery-white, powdery dust,” says Hebda. Bloom indicates freshness.

• Berries that are fully blue (not purple) are ripe, says Schooley. “But they tend to turn colour first, then flavour up, so you really have to taste them to know.” (Darn.)

Store ’em

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• Blueberries are much less perishable than raspberries or strawberries, says Schooley, and, fresh-picked, will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.

• Use a sealed container, or the fibreboard box they came in if you bought them at a roadside stand. (The cardboard helps absorb moisture.)

• Rinse berries just before eating; adding moisture before storage encourages mould to grow.

• Frozen blueberries keep for up to two years; make sure yours are dry before freezing, to avoid clumps.