In Search of Blueberries in the Wilds of NWO!

August 08

I’ve been doing a lot of hiking, so this week I decided to do something a little different.  I have had a lot of locals tell me that the blueberries are ready, so I got the idea to partake in some blueberry picking.  Nipigon is known for its blueberries.  In fact, we have an annual Blueberry Festival (August 19-20 this year) to honour this delicious fruit.   I’ve never picked before, but as far as I knew all you need for blueberry picking is a bucket.  Trusted sources told me to hit a honey spot 20 km east of Nipigon, off Camp 81 Road.  We drove up the road for about 6KM until we came to a fork.  We veered left on Hanson Cliff RD and drove for another km or so.   We saw two other cars parked and people in the bush picking, so we knew we were in the right spot.

  I went into this experience thinking there would be these huge perfect berries all around us, but that was not the case.  For one, I did not know what a blueberry bush looked like so that was a struggle at first, and two, I assumed all the berries would be big and ripe, but they were not.  Either I went a little too early in the season, or the berries are not ready because it’s been so dry the past few weeks.  Anyway, most of the berries we saw were these tiny little light blue ones, so we had to search for big ripe ones.

We picked for about 45 minutes, and got around two cups each.   We went in the middle of the afternoon so it was extremely hot.  Blueberries grow in clear cuts, where there isn’t a lot of shade.  I guess that’s why most people go early in the morning, or in the evening.  Regardless of when you go, wear sunscreen and a hat, bring a water bottle and bug spray.  The bugs weren’t too bad, but depending on the wind and the time of day, they can be pretty irritating.   We never saw a bear, but being in the bush it is always a possibility that you could come across one.   If you are by yourself wear a bell, bring a dog, or sing while you work.  If you bring a friend, keep up a constant conversation.  Bears don’t like surprises, and if they hear your voice they will probably stay away.

I went home and was ready to reward myself for all my hard work, so I cleaned my berries right away.  It was crazy the amount of leaves and twigs I had in my bowl.   Needless to say, I need to work on my “clean” picking skills.  As much as possible, I recommend trying to pluck only the ripe berries to put in your container.  No leaves or twigs!   It makes things a lot easier when you go home and start having to pick all the yucky stuff out.   Plus, if you leave the unripe berries on the bushes, they’ll be ready in a few days for someone (or something!) else to enjoy.

Although we didn’t get much, the blueberries we did get were gone right away.  I really enjoyed my blueberry picking experience, but I don’t think I will become an avid picker.   There are usually baskets of berries for sale at the Blueberry Blast, so maybe that’s where I’ll do my “foraging” from now on!

I may not be going picking again, but I’m going to try to eat as many blueberries as possible.  I’ve been reading up on it.   Blueberries, particularly the wild ones that grow in abundance in Northwestern Ontario, are bursting with health benefits:

  1. Blueberries are low in calories, but high in nutrients

(The blueberry is a very popular berry. It is low in calories, but high in fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K)

  1. Blueberries help reduce DNA damage, which may help protect against aging and cancer

(Several studies have shown that blueberries and blueberry juice can protect against DNA damage, a leading driver of aging and cancer)

  1. Blueberries may lower one’s blood pressure

(Regular blueberry intake has been shown to lower blood pressure in numerous studies)

  1. Blueberries may help prevent heart disease

(There is some evidence that regular blueberry consumption can help prevent heart attacks)

  1. Blueberries can help maintain brain function and improve memory

(The antioxidants in blueberries seem to have benefits for the brain, helping to improve brain function and delaying age-related decline)

Until next time, exploring the edge.

-JZ

Source for blueberry information:

Leech, J. (2017, June 04). 10 Proven Health Benefits of Blueberries. Retrieved August 04, 2017, from http://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-blueberries#section2