N.B. plans to harvest 60 million pounds during Wild Blueberry Week
How many people does it take to pick 60 million pounds of wild blueberries?
Nobody's really sure, but that's what expected to be harvested in New Brunswick over the next seven days during Wild Blueberry Week.
Restaurants and businesses all over New Brunswick shine a spotlight on a locally-grown superfruit.
"We know the supply, we know where they come from," said restaurant owner Kate Mammen. "We know that they're not been tampered with, and we know that they're fresh."
In many cases, they come straight from New Brunswick berry fields.
"You can see these particular ones, they're quite dark," said Scotch Ridge, N.B., blueberry farmer Russell Weir.
Weir has farmed wild blueberries for decades. He says up to 35 varieties of the fruit grow in New Brunswick blueberry fields and the fruit themselves are packed with a story of their own.
"Aboriginal residents of New Brunswick took advantage of the wild blueberry when they were first here, and I'm sure they were in existence probably before that," says Weir.
The veteran farmer says wild blueberries, which grow in Eastern Canada and Maine, are different than the ones you might usually pick up in a grocery store.
"The wild blueberry is not as large as the cultivated berry is," Weir says. "The wild blueberry grows on a low bush, which affects the taste.
"They don't have the same degree of sweetness, and the health benefits are quite a bit stronger in the low, wild bush blueberry," Weir says.
After this season, some of Weir's fields will be mowed to the ground. Weir says that is industry practice to get the best possible fruit. Wild blueberry plants will begin their next two-year growth cycle in the spring. And it's the timespan of the growth cycle that makes each crop yield very important for wild blueberry farmers.
Last year, a long frost and cold temperatures into summer growing months devastated local berry fields.
"Parts of Charlotte County lost 60 to 70 per cent," Weir said. "My overall loss on the farm last year was over half."
This year has been a lot better for the crops.
"We've had a lot of moisture, that's been beneficial," Weir said. "We didn't have a lot of frost damage this spring and that's been helpful. We're close to a normal year."
According to the agency regulating the fruit in the province, there is an expected yield of 60 million pounds of wild blueberries.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Jessica Ng.