Ohhhh Maine. Where do I even begin, my love?!
I've spent the last few days in beautiful Bar Harbor, Maine exploring the Wild Blueberry barrens with a group of incredible dietitians, food bloggers, media personalities, authors, and more thanks to the lovely Wild Blueberry Association. Believe me when I say that I never want to leave this majestic place.
From hiking in Acadia National Park and sprawling out in the Wild Blueberry fields to eating fresh lobster that was caught a couple hours ago no more than a hundred feet from the table, this trip was pretty much straight out of a dream.
Breakfast: blueberry pancakes, pineapple, watermelon + smoothie samples from our smoothie contest!
I've learned that Wild Blueberries are an incredibly powerful and resilient little fruit. They have to be, since they grow close to the ground in Maine's harsh soil and glacial climate where they are not planted, but rather grow wild, right where nature put them.
This tough climate is what gives Wild Blueberries their potent flavor and antioxidant capacity (double that of cultivated blueberries) which slows the onset of aging and chronic disease. This unique native crop has been growing for thousands of years in Maine, Eastern and Canada, and Quebec. You can't get these bloobies just anywhere! Since they have such a short shelf life, you'll likely only see them in the frozen aisle.
Who can guess the three crops native to this country?
Wild Blueberries, cranberries, and Concord grapes.
The immense body of research surrounding Wild Blueberries and health is absolutely fascinating. Every year we learn more about the power of this little fruit in fighting a vast array of chronic diseases and conditions.
Compared with over twenty other fruits, Wild Blueberries have the highest antioxidant capacity per serving. Antioxidants not only helps prevent overall oxidative damage to our cells, but they also help to decrease blood pressure, boost beneficial bacteria in the gut, inhibit cancer growth, improve memory function, slow cognitive decline, prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol, reduce diabetes risk, and fight Alzheimer's. How's that for a mini superfruit?!
Snack: multiple handfuls of trail mix with nuts, dried fruit, and dark chocolate + Wild Blueberries from the field!
I was also surprised to learn that Wild Blueberries contain more zinc (important for vegans!), eight times the bone-building manganese (200% of the daily value), two more grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber (25% of the daily value), and five fewer grams of sugar than cultivated blueberries.
Lunch: veggie wrap, apple, and kettle potato chips in the beautiful Acadia National Park!
Though Wild Blueberries are much smaller in size, they're packed with flavor that varies from berry to berry thanks to the vast genetic diversity found in the fields. I saw pale blueberries, reddish blueberries, deep blue blueberries, and even black blueberries. All of these wild varieties have a story of their own, all varying in sweetness, flavor, and texture.
Snack: Mt. Desert ice cream flight (basil, thai chili coconut--can't even begin to describe the goodness, bergamot chocolate, blueberry sour cream streusel)
These special berries are picked and then individually quick frozen within 24 hours of harvest, keeping all of these incredible antioxidants and nutrients in tact. Cultivated blueberries may sit on trucks from other countries for weeks (especially in the winter) in temperature-controlled conditions before they make it to your grocery store and refrigerator.
There is a HUGE misconception that frozen fruit is less nutritious than fresh. In the case of many fruits and veggies, frozen products have their nutrition locked in much sooner than fresh produce purchased at the store that has been sitting around for God only knows how long.
Dinner: Salad, clams, mussels, fries, sweet potato fries, biscuits, coleslaw, corn on the cob, fresh lobster, blueberry pie + ice cream at Beal's Lobster Pier. I don't think I had eaten this much since Thanksgiving. Incredible.
Maine to me is endless Wild Blueberry fields, pristine water, still sailboats, salty air, bright blue and forest green landscapes, all the locally made ice cream you can get your tongue on. I cannot wait to go back.
Disclosure: I was invited on an expense-paid trip to Maine by The Wild Blueberry Association. I was not asked nor compensated to write this post. All opinions are my own.