Wild Bounty -July 2018

Blueberries: the Island’s July Harvest

by: Marianne R. Stanton

July is blueberry-picking season on Nantucket, and with all the rains we have had leading up to summer, the forecast is for a plentiful harvest.

Nantucket’s sandy soils provide fertile ground for growing blueberries. Indeed, wild blueberries are prolific in the sandplain grasslands and middle moors where you’ll find lowbush berries. It’s back-breaking work, harvesting the berries by hand, for they are much smaller than commercial varieties. The flavor of island blueberries, however, is much more intense and sweeter.

Cinnamon Blueberry Ice Cream

Berry-picking was one of my favorite summer pastimes as a child. As a kid we used to make blueberry-picking pails out of Crisco cans. My grandmother had a cottage industry making doughnuts and giant molasses cookies on Saturday mornings, so there was always a steady supply of empty gallon Crisco containers forthcoming from her baking business. My grandfather would punch two holes on opposite sides of the can and fashion a wire handle from an old coat hanger and we were good to go.

Blueberries were seemingly everywhere on the island in July. Nana and grandpa would take us out into the moors off Polpis Road and navigate toward their favorite picking grounds. We would then proceed to fill our pails with Nantucket’s finest. We would pick for a while and then sit and snack on our harvest. After a while we’d wonder why it took so long for the pail to get full. When we finally did top it off, my grandfather would come by and dump our small pails of berries into his bigger basket. Then it was back to nana and grandpa’s house to divide up the spoils.

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