Wild Northerner Magazine Summer 2017 - Page 68

BY SCOTT HADDOW

Wild Northerner staff

By August, there are countless cars and trucks parked along the sides of roads across northern Ontario.

The owners are doing one of three things – picking, selling and/or buying fresh wild blueberries.

This is a signature trademark of our region in the middle to late stages of summer every year.

It is part of the culture in the northern region and a big part of many people’s lives. From picking to selling to making delicious treats, blueberries have made an undeniable impact on the people and landscape.

“Blueberries are a passion for a lot of people here,” Sudbury Blueberry Festival chair John Lindsay said. “For good reason, too. Our blueberries are wild and known around the world for their taste.”

Blueberries are a perennial flowering plant. In July, the plants begin to bear fruit, which turns a stark purple when ripe. The fruit is a source of potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, calcium, vitamin K and dietary fibre, among other things. The plants prefer a highly acidic soil, which makes Greater Sudbury and the surrounding regions a good place for the plant to prosper.

It makes for a heck of a business, with pickers making thousands of dollars some summers when there is a bumper crop of berries. Some of the pickers go to great lengths to keep prime blueberry spots hidden from others. Above all else, the blueberry picker is a person to respect.

“It’s a good cash crop for people,” Lindsay said. “We have some crazy pickers up here. Some people are fanatics about their blueberries and picking patches. They don’t talk about their good spots and guard them closely. Some people can really go. They can pick two or three six-quart baskets in a day. The joy of picking turns these people on. It takes a lot of work. You must put up with the weather and bugs and sometimes bears. They love what they do.”

The blue jewel of northern Ontario