It doesn't matter where you live on the island, within a short drive you can find yourself among endless patches of the stout, wind-hardy bushes speckled with little blue gems. Found in headlands and open woods, they grow all over this province and ripen in August and September. Everyone's got a favourite spot. And if you don't have a spot, you can ask your mother for hers. Even better, ask your Nan. Her spot will be better. Out of luck? Ask someone else's Nan.
The species that grows in Newfoundland is called Vaccinium augustifolium (augusti = narrow and folium = leaf). It's native to Eastern and Central Canada and Northeastern US and it doesn't grow anywhere else in the world. A similar species is the Northern Blueberry (Vaccinium boreale), and while it looks and tastes similar, it doesn't grow in as much abundance and doesn't bear as much fruit. Heading abroad, if you travel to Europe or the Pacific Coast of Canada or the US and visit a local farmer's market, you'd notice their blueberries look conspicuously different than our beloved berry. And you wouldn't be mistaken: it actually is a different berry. In fact, the blueberry imposter available out West and in Europe is not even a blueberry! It is really the 'bilberry' (or the previously mentioned 'whortleberry' in England). The bilberry (Vaccinium mytrillus), does not grow in Newfoundland or Eastern Canada. It does, however, grow all over Northern Europe and Western Canada and Pacific Northwest. And, sadly for the folks in these areas, it is an inferior picking species. You see, these berries do not grow in clusters; they grow in singles and most pickers will even use a specially designed berry-picking scoop for collecting them to speed up the process. My mother lives in Finland, and this is the berry she picks when she tells me she's blueberry picking. Lucky for her these berries taste great and might even be considered a more pungent and colourful older cousin of our local blueberry - but for primo berry picking there is simply no beating the berries found here in Newfoundland. So grab your salt beef bucket and go hit the heath.
So there you have it. Newfoundland is an island occupied by one person per square kilometer and carpeted with easy-to-pick blueberry patches. This is why the best blueberries are found in Newfoundland.
Some tips on picking:
Blueberries are the favourite of most and most have a favourite recipe, too. Blueberry crumble, blueberry pie, blueberry muffins, blueberry scones, blueberry cream puffs. These are the stalwart desserts you get at Nan's. But how about something a little new? Later I'll share some ideas for blueberry recipes which I'll bet you haven't seen before (along with some tradition recipes, too, for good measure).
I'm Erik, the Burnt Chef. I'm a Finnish-born Newfoundlander living in Norway. I have a passion for cooking and a deep fascination for the culinary history of the North. Simplicity guides my cooking. Time, place, and history guide my storytelling. This is my personal blog about food.