Welcome to the first post in my HoME Grown category! Through this category, I hope to bring recognition to the agricultural industry in Maine and to some of the local farms themselves – one of the characteristics I love most about this state is the pride in local business and the commitment to entrepreneurial endeavors.
It seemed only appropriate to begin with the blueberry, as it is the state fruit of Maine, has many health benefits, and is a major contributor to Maine’s economy. There are two types of blueberries – lowbush blueberries, which are wild, and highbush blueberries, which are cultivated and are frequently hybrids, enabling them to be more easily grown in other parts of the world. Maine is the leader of lowbush blueberry production in the United States. In fact, 90% of the nation’s wild blueberry crop comes from Washington County alone.
There are many blueberry farms in Maine – the state has over 60,000 acres of blueberries – and some farms are open for you to “pick your own.” I’ll highlight a couple of blueberry farms below, but for a more complete listing, visit the Maine Living site on wild blueberries.
Merrill Blueberry Farm is located in Ellsworth, Maine, and has been growing and selling wild blueberries since 1925. Through four generations, they’ve remained committed to growing and harvesting a high quality crop for their customers. Today, Merrill Farm’s wild blueberries are frozen using the Individually Quick Frozen
method to ensure their long-lasting healthfulness and flavor.
Worcester’s Wild Blueberry Products, in Orneville, Maine, has been selling wild blueberries for over 30 years at local stores, farmers’ markets, and their own roadside stand. In 2003, they branched out into other wild blueberry products including jams, jellies, syrups, and more. Their emphasis is on small, high quality batches rather than large scale production.
Wild blueberries are smaller and have a more intense flavor than cultivated blueberries. Blueberries have gained recognition for being high in antioxidants, which provide a great health benefit by combatting free radicals, particles that damage your cells and can lead to diseases like cancer and heart disease. In addition, blueberries contain Vitamins A and C, zinc, potassium, iron, and magnesium. So eat up!
This post will also be the first to be featured on my ‘Weekly Recipes‘ page. Once a week, I’ll make a recipe from one of my Maine cookbooks and write a blog post about it – links to posts and recipes can be found on this page. Today, I’m making a blueberry muffin recipe from my favorite cookbook (click here to see my favorite cookbook post), Recipes from the Maine Kitchen. This recipe can be found on page 213 and is called “Barbara’s Blueberry Muffins.” These muffins will become our holiday gifts to our mailman and garbage collectors, as well a snacks for us here at home. Yum!
The recipe makes 1 dozen muffins, I doubled it. You’ll need:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups wild Maine blueberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Sift flour, soda, baking powder and salt together and set aside. Beat or stir butter for 30 seconds and add sugar, then stir to combine. Beat in eggs, yogurt, and vanilla (this can be done with a mixer or by hand – I did it by hand, and it’s a heck of a workout). Stir in flour mixture. Fold in blueberries carefully, so as not to break them up, and spoon into muffin cups.
Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over muffins. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 – 20 minutes.
The end result – time to enjoy- yum!