A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of attending Wild Blueberries of North America’s #BlogTheBarrens in Maine. It was my first time being away from my baby boy and I was both nervous and excited at the same time. Knowing he was in good hands with my mom and hubby, I was able to have a fantastic time. Maine is absolutely gorgeous and this trip was everything I could have wanted. The weather was PERFECT (especially for cool morning runs). I ate incredibly delicious food every single day (that I did not have to prepare myself!). And…I got to hang out with some amazingly talented dietitians and nerd out on wild blueberry knowledge. It was the best way I could have spent time away from home – doing the things that I love to do.
So what exactly happens at #BlogTheBarrens? Let me tell you…
First, this was the view from my room at the Bar Harbor Inn. How beautiful is that?! I could tell from the moment I stepped on the property that this was going to be a good trip. Notice the path along the water – it was only a mile long, but I sure didn’t mind running back and forth multiple times to get my mileage in for marathon training. Peaceful. Beautiful. Cool. A runner’s dream.
Visiting the Wild Blueberry Barrens was quite an experience. We stepped off the bus and into a HUGE field of wild blueberries. Our tour guides encouraged us to pick berries and taste them. They were juicy and warm from the sunshine – absolute heaven. What’s interesting is that even within one small section of the barrens, there were so many naturally occurring varietals – some were violet (almost black), while other were lighter shades of blue, and even some that looked redish in color. I tasted as many as I could, grabbing a handful here and there as I snapped pictures. Each had it’s own complex and delicious flavor. I could have sat there all day munching away…
Now, you may be asking yourself several questions (the same questions I had been asking myself, actually): what’s the difference between blueberries and wild blueberries? And why are they called barrens? Well, wild blueberries have been growing in Maine, Eastern Canada and Quebec for 10,000 years. No seeds were planted, the crop just grows naturally in the area (now with careful management). And because wild blueberries had to adapt and survive the harsh climate, and glacial soils (“the barrens”) they have a higher concentration of antioxidants than their cultivated blueberry cousins. Of course wild blueberry season lasts only through the summer so the delicious little nuggets have to be picked quickly and frozen within 24 hours to lock in nutrients and flavor. So, if you want fresh berries, you’re going to have to visit Maine in August. But…the good news is that you can purchase wild blueberries all year round in the frozen food section. They’re perfect for making smoothies! And…blueberry pancakes 🙂
Back in the day, before they had fancy tractors to collect the berries, people would hand rake the berries (and some still do!). I have to tell you, it was hard work, but satisfying and delicious work!
After laboring away in the fields (for all of 10 minutes – shhhh!), we headed off to Acadia National Park for lunch and a little hike with breathtaking views. Seriously, why don’t I live in Maine?
And even though the Maine purpose (see what I did there? :-P) of the trip was to learn about wild blueberries, our gracious hosts treated us to fresh caught lobstahs (that’s how New Englanders say it!). This was my first time having to work for my lobster and I was lucky enough to have wild blueberry specialist (and incredibly patient teacher), David Yarborough, show me how to eat Sebastian (yes, I named him…). It was messy, but oh so yummy! Not sure I’ll ever do it again, but, hey “when in Maine!”
The foggy morning on the day I had to go just shows you that Maine was sad about me leaving too. But…I was happy to round out the trip with a nice run and could not wait to snuggle my Baby Burrito back in NYC.
Oh…and remember those incredible Registered Dietitians and bloggers I had mentioned? Well, they are all super smart, creative, brilliant…and you should check out their blogs:
- Alexis Joseph, MS, RD, LD – Hummusapien
- Sally Kuzemcak MS, RD – Real Mom Nutrition
- Kate Geagan, MS, RDN – America’s Green Nutritionist
- Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN – Nutritioulicious
- Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC – Dana White Nutrition
- Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, RYT – The Foodie Dietitian
- EA Stewart, RDN – The Spicy RD
- Sarah-Jane Bedwell, RD, LDN
- Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD