Blueberries are the perfect choice for a healthy snack. Here is our interview with Graeme Weir from Mckay Blueberries in Penfield, NB. Graeme can tell you everything you need to know about Blueberries. If you are travelling through Pennfield, McKay’s is a must stop.
What type of products do you offer at the McKay’s blueberries store ?
We are a farmstand that specializes in made-from-scratch wild blueberry products but also offer items made from other local fruits including cranberries, apples, and rhubarb. Our blueberry pies and muffins are our most popular products, but we also offer wild blueberry wine, jams, jellies, sundaes, and shortcakes, to name a few.
How long is the blueberry season ?
Our farmstand is open from April until November cooking from frozen blueberries, but the fresh season is when things really get hopping! That runs from late July until roughly mid September. We have fields in very warm areas that enable us to start picking early and we also have a few right on the coast that are protected from frost so we can often continue well into September. Each year the exact start and finish dates vary though.
How do you pick the blueberries and how do they grow?
We pick blueberries in many different ways. For the first fresh pints of the season we pick them by finger from the earliest parts of the earliest fields directly into pint boxes. These are generally next to rocks that gather extra heat. Later in the season we hand pick them with rakes plus other more mechanical methods. Some are harvested with pushrakes, which are like baby carriages with a box on the back that the berries get dumped into. Others are picked with engine powered pickers of different sizes. Some have small engines and are what we call walk-behind harvesters, and others are tractor mounted with revolving drums of teeth that pick the berries into belts that carry them to a box on the back of the tractor where the leaves are blown off with a fan.
Why do you need bees on your farm?
We need bees because without a bee there isn’t a berry! Some flowers can pollinate in the wind because of their design but blueberry blossoms are shaped like a bell and hand downward. It is almost like they’re protecting the pollen from the wind and therefore must have a bee to move the hidden pollen treasure from blossom to blossom. Wild pollinators are particularly important but have to be supplemented with other kinds of bees. We have some of our own hives of honeybees but also rent hives from other beekeepers, plus we buy commercial hives of bumblebees called quads and have used alfalfa leafcutter bees in the past. Our spring tends to be too cold for leafcutters though-they generally won’t even fly until it reaches 18C and sunny.
What is your favorite blueberry food?
It’s hard to pick one favourite! My grandkids MUST have blueberry pancakes on sleepover nights and they love helping make them, so my favourite Sunday morning food is blueberry pancakes. My favourite everyday food would have to be blueberry muffins because they’re good for everything! Breakfast, snacks, dessert, you name it. But my favourite guilty pleasure would have to be a blueberry sundae with real whipped cream.
Leave us with a Fun non-blueberry fact!
Did you know that rhubarb is the only vegetable that is legally classified as a fruit? Rhubarb pie is excellent on its own but really adds its own character when mixed with fruits like blueberry or strawberry.