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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Island Blueberries

It's a beautiful day after several days of intermittent rain with a nice east coast breeze to keep the mosquitoes away. Sylvia, my mother-in-law, and I head out to a blueberry field just outside Kensington, Prince Edward Island, to pick some of those luscious blue delights.

Having grown up in Newfoundland, I am accustomed to picking wild blueberries. There weren't any of those high bush blueberries where we picked. Just up the road from our home in Mount Pearl grew the most delicious patches of incredible berries. Near my grandparents' home in Maddox Cove was another berry paradise. In Buchans the area by the old airstrip was a favourite picking site. Also any area which had been burnt over became a blueberry patch and I loved picking them. 

These wonderful blueberries are at the end of long fields over one of the rolling hills in this area north of Kensington. The road is in good condition and you pass fields of hay and potatoes this year. Next year something else will grow on these fields to preserve the soil and help with disease prevention. Agricultural science helps farmers keep the soil producing valuable crops for generations.

        Blueberry road through potato and hay fields

The blueberry field here is sectioned off with string and the workers lead you to a section with lots of berries, close to the ground, plentiful, deep blue and plump. Today what sounds like crickets are actually chickadees according to other pickers. Nearby two young girls are speaking French, some of which I understand. Across the field a worker guides a mechanical picker over the bushes. I settle into a patch and fill the dumper numerous times and empty into a bucket. 

           Blueberry patch and  mechanical picker

           Mechanical picker

I'm a roamer when it comes to picking berries. Always in search of the 'biggies,' I move around an area while Sylvia picks every berry in a spot. Other pickers include roamers as well but there are plenty of berries to go around.

                Blue delights

Before long the buckets are full and it's time to pay for the lovely delights. The owner of the field is here, David Woodington. He tells me about the fields he and his wife, Alice tend; they will mow this field in the fall, almost down to the soil. Next year, the blueberry bushes will start to grow in this field but berries won't be harvested in this same patch for two years. Next year, the field across the road, which was picked last year and mowed last fall, will be full of berries again. These berries are carefully nurtured wild berries.

           David Woodington

The Woodingtons would prefer to burn the field to clear it for the next generation of blueberry plants. However there are strict regulations for burning which makes it impractical. These berries are shipped to Nova Scotia for processing. However, there is a processing plant on the island. Berries are used for jam, juice, sold fresh or frozen.

        Next year's patch

The blueberries that I took for granted when I was young have a story of their own in Prince Edward Island.

          Yummy bucketful

Mr. and Mrs. Woodington, you grow delicious blueberries!

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