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Canadian Wild Blueberries: What Happens to the Wild Blueberry?

If you’re like us, you’re probably curious about how harvest season looks for wild blueberry producers. When farmers are harvesting corn, wheat, oats or canola, they use combines with specific headers (and settings) for each type of crop. Apple pickers are often hired for harvest to hand pick apples, careful to not bruise them, and then they are sorted by shape, size and quality. Other berries are harvested by shaking the branches and using a hand held rake for the stragglers, allowing the fruit to drop to the ground which is covered with a tarp. 

How are Canadian Wild Blueberries Harvested?

 

While the wild blueberry used to be picked by hand or by using a small, hand-held rake, harvest has significantly changed for many producers over the last couple of decades. 90-95% of growers now use a mechanical harvester which is mounted to a tractor. These harvesters have rotating rakes that pull the berries from the branches, drop them onto a belt, and then drops them into large totes. 

             

 

Fact: Each tote can hold around 300 pounds of berries

 

Approximately only 1-2% of wild blueberry producers still use the more traditional method of hand-raking the wild blueberries off of the brush. There are also smaller mechanical harvesters, as well. These can be pushed, or have push rakes that are mounted onto smaller machines, and are often used on smaller farms. 

What Happens after They Are Picked?

 

Depending on the size of operation, there are different ways that producers go about handling their produce for Individual Quick Freezing (IQF). Most producers ensure that once the totes have been filled, they are loaded onto a flatbed trailer and brought to a receiving station. Here, they are weighed and loaded into a transport truck. These trucks will bring the berries to the processing plant, where they go through a series of events to prepare them for the individual quick freezing process. Note: some producers skip the flatbed trailer all together and load their berries directly into the transport truck for the delivery to the processing station. 

 

Once the berries arrive at the processing plant, they are cleaned in by going through a blower and several different water baths. To ensure quality control, they are sorted by using lasers, as well as other techniques. Once the berries have been sorted and cleaned, each and every wild blueberry is individually quick frozen. There are several different processes that the berries will then go through, depending on the processing plant, what the berries are being used for, and where they are going. In the end, the berries are then packaged and prepared to ship. For berries that are sold in the freezer section in your grocery store, most of the berries are packaged into 600 gram and 2 kilogram bags or containers. The vast majority of Canadian wild blueberries, however, are exported out of the country! 

Did you know that Japan uses wild blueberries primarily in yogurts and jams, while Germany will use Canadian wild blueberries most often in glass jars! 

What about Fresh Wild Blueberries?

 

Because fresh wild blueberries do not have a long shelf life, they are most often sold as frozen berries. But if you’re in an area during wild blueberry harvest, and you happen to get your hands on some of those small blue gems, we highly recommend doing so! The process of harvest-to-table of fresh wild blueberries is a little different. 

Once the berries are picked, they are then brought back to the shop on the local farm. They go through a similar process as their frozen counterparts, with a giant fan blowing out the debris. Then they go over a sizing belt which helps sort the berries by size and ripeness, a tilter belt that removes clusters, and then over a picking belt where workers can sort through the fruit to pull the bad ones out (note: some operations also have started using lasers to help with this sorting process). Boxes are then packed in several sizes, including pint, 5lb and 10lbs. You can find these blueberries fresh at farm markets, some local grocery stores, or roadside stands. The farms that have their own processors will often also freeze their berries, and sell them to consumers well after the harvest is over!  

We are so thankful for those who manage and harvest Canadian wild blueberries! We love those tangy little berries that are unique to our part of the world, and how versatile they are. It’s wonderful being able to use them in all types of food, throughout the year (thanks to IQF), and even other things like DIY paint and soap. 

 

What do you think? Did you know this is how the mighty wild blueberry was harvested and processed? Were there any surprises? Let us know in the comments!

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Canadian Wild Blueberries

It’s no surprise that wild blueberries have a big following. They are a versatile little super fruit, heavily packed with nutrients, vitamins and fibre. But there is more to the wild blueberry than meets the eye. Here are 5 fun facts that you may not have already known! 

1. Finding fresh wild blueberries is tricky and can only be done during a short growing season. 

Wild blueberries are not known for their fresh shelf life. In fact, the vast majority of wild blueberries are actually frozen using a special method called Individually Quick Frozen. The berries are collected and then frozen within 24 hours of being harvested. This method of freezing them individually ensures that they retain their superfruit qualities and provide the same intense nutrition that they would if they were fresh! 

 

2. Canadian wild blueberries are sold around the world. 

It’s true! Canadian wild blueberries can be found in products and in freezers around the world! In fact, Canada alone produces over 300 million pounds of wild blueberries a year, with a good majority of those berries being exported. 

 

3. Canadian wild blueberries come in all kinds of forms. 

While many people love to eat wild blueberries straight from the branches, people have transformed the wild blueberry into different forms for all kinds of uses. Among these include pure wild blueberry juices, syrups, powders, dried (both chewy and crunchy), freeze dried, and more! 

 

4. Wild blueberries and cultivated blueberries are different! 

The saying “an apple is an apple” is not true – either in the case of apples OR in the case of blueberries! While all blueberries are good for you, wild blueberries are known to have a more intense flavour profile, and are higher in anthocyanins and antioxidants than their highbush cousins. The other main difference between the two blueberry families is the way that they are grown. Cultivated blueberries are grown on bushes that can grow incredibly tall, and are planted by producers. Wild blueberries, or low bush blueberries, are grown on bushes that are no higher than your knee, and sprawl along the ground. These grow in the wild, and aren’t planted by producers. 

 

5. The wild blueberry has a dedicated following of consumers. 

We aren’t kidding when we say people love their wild blueberries. In Canada alone, there are at least 5 different festivals that are dedicated to the Canadian wild blueberry! We love that so many people love wild blueberries, because we do too! If you’re interested in participating in one of the wild blueberry festivals in Canada, take a peek at this post all about it! 

 

Tell us – what surprised you most? We love to hear your feedback, so drop it in the comments below! 

Wild Blueberry and Lemon White Chocolate Cake

Wild Blueberry and Lemon White Chocolate Cake

Kilted Chef Alain
Decadent and delicious. This tasty treat is perfect for featuring at your next get-together, or to enjoy the taste of summer all year long.
Prep Time 25 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Course Dessert
Cuisine American

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup butter room temperature
  • cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp lemon zest
  • ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • cup frozen wild blueberries
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips

Lemon Cream Cheese Butter Frosting

  • 1 8 oz block of cream cheese
  • ½ cup butter room temperature
  • 2 tsp lemon extract or 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 cups icing sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp heavy cream

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F
  • Cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar using a hand or stand mixer.
  • Add eggs in one at a time, beating just until combined.
  • Add vanilla extract and almond extract and combine.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together buttermilk, lemon juice and lemon zest.
  • In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Add ⅓ of the flour mixture to the mixer, followed by ½ of the buttermilk mixture. Repeat, ending with the flour.
  • Place frozen wild blueberries in a bowl and toss with the 1 tbsp of flour. Add to the batter, along with the white chocolate chips. Fold to incorporate.
  • Line two 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease. Divide the batter between the two pans evenly.
  • Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes.

Lemon Cream Cheese Butter Frosting

  • Place the cream cheese and butter into the bowl of the stand mixer, and use the paddle attachment to cream the two together.
  • Add lemon extract and mix. Add icing sugar 1 cup at a time. Add heavy cream as neded to keep the icing fluid and smooth
  • Beat for 3 - 4 minutes until light and airy.
  • Place one of the cooled cakes on a dessert plate and spread ⅓ of the icing on top. Add the second cake layer and place the remaining icing on top. You can leave the sides naked, or if you prefer, spread the icing around the edge.
  • Garnish with some more lemon zest and a lemon twist.
Keyword baked treats, dessert

Sweet Potato Salmon with Wild Blueberry & Basil Compote

Sweet Potato Salmon with Wild Blueberry & Basil Compote

Chef Alain Bosse, The Kilted Chef
A sweet and aromatic dinner that uses salmon, wild blueberries and sweet potato. A quick dish that tastes like you've been working on it for hours!
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Servings 2 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 2 salmon fillets 6-8 oz
  • ½ lemon juiced
  • 2 sweet potatoes cooked and mashed
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • drizzle of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Wild Blueberry & Basil Compote

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups wild blueberries
  • 1 shallot diced
  • 1 green onion diced
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ½ tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp basil chopped

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C).
  • Place the salmon fillets on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and squeeze the lemon.
  • Mash the sweet potatoes, add the maple syrup and butter, along with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Divide sweet potatoes between the two salmon fillets.
  • Divide pumpkin seeds between the two servings, and drizzle with olive oil.
  • Place in the oven for 15 minutes.
  • Top with the wild blueberry and basil compote to serve.

Wild Blueberry and Basil Compote

  • Heat olive oil over medium-high heat, and add the blueberries. Using the back of a spoon, crush some of the berries so they release their juice.
  • Add shallots and green onions, and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add Dijon mustard and white wine, stir to combine.
  • Allow compote to reduce by a quarter, and then stir in the basil.
  • Finish with salt, pepper and butter.

 

Wild Blueberry Grunt

Wild Blueberry Grunt

Chef Alain Bosse, The Kilted Chef
A Nova Scotian classic, this tangy and sweet treat is a great dessert no matter what the season.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups wild blueberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 2 limes juiced
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup frozen butter, grated
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Instructions
 

  • Place the blueberries along with the sugar, water, lime juice, and spices into a preheated cast iron or enamel pot with a lid. Cover and place over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the juices have been released and a jam consistency has been reached.
  • Combine the biscuit ingredients and mix to form a soft dough. Drop the dough into the blueberry mixture using a 2 oz (57g) scoop.
    Cover and let set for 10 to 12 minutes or until the biscuits are no longer wet.
  • Serve with whipped cream and vanilla ice cream.
Keyword dessert

7 Unique Ways to Enjoy Wild Blueberries

Do you like eating wild blueberries all year long? It can be hard to come by {affordable} fresh fruit during the colder months when fresh produce isn’t as readily available in Canada. Fresh wild blueberries are even more difficult to come by, as the season is short, and with a short shelf life, wild blueberries don’t stay fresh for long.  

Of course, our wild blueberry producers are clever. Because they know that we love our blueberries all year round, there have been some incredibly innovative ways of ensuring that we get the super fruit that we love whenever we want it! There are many different ways that wild blueberries can be enjoyed, some of which may be very surprising!

 

7 Unique Ways to Enjoy Wild Blueberries

 

Fresh: 

Obviously this is going to be first on our list. There’s nothing quite like eating wild blueberries straight from the bush. You can get wild blueberries fresh during the harvest season (typically late August to mid September) off of wild blueberry bushes, u-Pick farms, or your local grocery store. Fresh wild blueberries can be used in a large variety of ways, including baking, cooking, sauces, snacking (fresh), and so on. 

 

frozen wild blueberries

Frozen: 

If you’ve been following Canadian Wild Blueberries for any amount of time, you’ll know that frozen wild blueberries is the most accessible form. All Canadian wild blueberries are put through a process called IQF, or better known as Individually Quick Frozen, within 24 hours of being picked. This preserves their nutritional value, their colour, and taste. Many different brands throughout Canada (and around the world) carry wild blueberries that are IQF, and likely can be found in the frozen goods section of your local grocery store. 

 

Pureed: 

Did you know that wild blueberries are sold as purees? Whether canned or frozen, pureed wild blueberries are used around the world! They can be used as pure ingredients in a sorbet or ice cream, or to be used in cocktails or other drinks. Wild blueberry puree is incredibly useful, as well as being incredibly versatile. 

Juiced: 

As the heading suggests, juiced pure wild blueberries are great for drinking (did you know that wild blueberries have tannins that help prevent bladder and urinary tract infections?), being reduced into a syrup, drizzling over ice cream, or adding to sparkling water for a refreshing drink. In Nova Scotia, one of the most well-known brands of wild blueberry juice is certainly Van Dyk’s Pure Wild Blueberry Juice

 

Powdered: 

Wait, what? Yes, it’s true – you can get pure wild blueberries in a powdered form! This is incredibly handy for baking, mixes, adding to smoothies, and much more! It holds every bit of the tart and refreshing flavour that we love from the wild blueberry, while allowing for us to enjoy them in a very different way! 

 

Dried:

Most of us have heard of dried grapes (raisins), cranberries (craisins) and so on. But have you heard of dried blueberries? There are typically two different forms of dried blueberries – chewy and crunchy! Next time you’re looking for something to nibble on, ditch the chips and go for some crunchy dried wild blueberries instead! 

 

Canned:

Of course, we would be remiss if we failed to mention canned wild blueberries. It’s a great way to preserve them, ensuring you can enjoy them all year long. Canning them in water, a light syrup or even pickling them (yes, it’s true! Here’s a recipe on how to make fridge pickle wild blueberries) allows for a longer shelf life, as well as creating some variety in ways to use your wild blueberries!

 

 

As you can see, these powerful little superfruits can be enjoyed in many different ways and in every season. Why not try some of the different ways to enjoy wild blueberries today? You never know – you may find a new favourite!