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Jul 26, 2011 12:54 PM

Ontario Wild Blueberries

Any sightings in Toronto or South Eastern Ontario?

Would really appreciate any tips on the east side (Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Oshawa, or even Peterborough). Makes a wicked blueberry jam when a pinch of fresh finely diced red chili pepper is added.

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  1. Well, I actually went away 2 weekends ago to a little spot off of Highway 7 East, maybe 45 minutes north of Napanee, and there were people selling Wild Blueberries at the roadside, along with fresh baked Blueberry Pies and other baked goods. I didnt stop by but they are definetely around right now, and if they are over there(maybe 1.5 hours from Peterborough) im sure you will be able to find em somewhere.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jmarcroyal

      I have seen them over the past couple of weeks in Apsley, which is an hour or less from Peterborough. They're pricey, though. A pint was going for $7.99.

    2. I bought some in Huntsville 2 weekends ago but I actually saw some at Whole Foods in Oakville (pricey, even more pricey than usual!).

      1. it might sound a little silly and extreme, but maybe you should plan a blueberry picking excursion, I mean, take a nice little hike, pick as much as you can find, then you get the blueberrys for your jam and a wonderful experience as well!

        You just gotta find a good location, im sure someone on the interwebz can point you in the right direction!

        6 Replies
        1. re: jmarcroyal

          Nice ! I'm in for a road trip. Extreme is good, just bring your bear spray (and running shoes).

          Unfortunately, I THINK Sudbury is the closest area. A friend was up near Red Lake (a 24 hour drive, same as Miami !) and said this years blueberries are late and the crop is poor. Suddenly $8/pint isn't too bad. Last year I bought 4 pints for $30 in August.

          PS You know the joke. You don't have to run faster than the bear, just the other blueberry picker...

          1. re: PoppiYYZ

            Aww you dont need bear spray, bears are good people! just give em their space, dont be afraid and act naturally!

            Bears arent vicious animals unless you P them off, but if youre just calmly hiking you should be ok. Its only the rare psycho bears that cause problems, but thats the same with people!

            1. re: PoppiYYZ

              Sudbury blueberries are perfect and plentiful this year. The berries farther North (like Red Lake , and near my camp, about 12 hours NW of Toronto) are not ready yet. They aren't typically ready until mid-late August.

              And yeah, bears have never been a problem for me either.

              1. re: PoppiYYZ

                I grew up north of Sudbury in a little place called Skead. The best blueberries on the planet. Ask the locals for the directions to Pike Lake Mountain. I'm moving to BC so I'm giving up this secret spot.


            2. They were at the outdoor stalls around the north St Lawrence Market the last two Saturdays. They're still a bit pricey, though, at $7.50 to $8.00 a pint. Last year they came down to $4.75 to $5.00 a pint after a few weeks.

              My favourite summer desert is sliced fresh Ontario peaches and wild blueberries drizzled with Cointreau.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Ted Richards

                Well, compare to the farmers market outside of HillCrest Mall, SLM's $7.50 to $8.00 a pint seems like a bargain!! The former were charging $12.95 a pint!! IMO, day light robbery!!
                However, a few stalls still have some Ontario Strawberry for sale. Nice, red, ripe and sweet!

              2. I've heard that a lot of the blueberries being sold at roadside stalls, etc in southern Ontario are not even from Ontario. Has anyone else heard this? Of course, that may not matter as long as they are wild blueberries.

                I eat a cup of wild blueberries every day and buy a few 5 lb boxes of Nova Scotia flash frozen wild blueberries throught the year in Acton for $17+ tax (which are actually farmed even though they taste and look the same as wild blueberries from the bush).

                14 Replies
                1. re: Flexitarian

                  Flexitarian, how do your NS flash frozens compare to the Organic wild blueberries that are sold in the freezer at Loblaws? I've used those on occasion and they aren't bad. Nothing compares to the fresh Ontario wild blueberries, though.

                  1. re: 1sweetpea

                    I bought a pint on HWY 69 up towards Noelville last week... very tasty, but they were $11!!!!

                  2. re: Flexitarian

                    Can you please mention your source in Acton. I am in that area sometimes and always curious about interesting food spots in that area.

                    1. re: ylsf

                      I buy wild blueberries at in Acton. A bit of a drive from where I live (downtown Toronto) but I buy enough to last 6 months at a time and it's worth it for the money I save and this allows me to eat them every day year round. The wild blueberries are available year round and go on sale every once in a while for $17/5lb but normally are $20/5lb. They are also available at another store called Macmillans in Ajax (733 Kingston Rd. E.
                      Ajax, ON L1S 4S7 (905) 686-2531) but I don't know their website. Apparently related families own each business separately.

                      Both pack them in 5 lb cardboard boxes but the former additionally has the cardboard box wrapped in a plastic zip lock bag (maybe to prevent freezer burn?) while the latter doesn't. Also, I find the former seems to have them on sale sometimes where the latter doesn't seem to, but call either to find out.

                      And, as one of the posters on this thread reported, it is true that "wild" blueberries (almost all of them anyway) aren't actually picked wild and do come from lowbrush cultivars rather than the highbush ones. MacMillans also told me this. The ones that you are going to get that actually come from pickers who are foraging through the bush in Ontario are extremely few and far between. One would be picking for a long time and over many kilometres of terrain to pick enough 'wild' blueberries in order to supply all of the stands you see all over Ontario in the summer. Therefore, they are mass cultivated. If you really want wild 'wild' blueberries you pretty well have to pick them yourself. Also, whenever I have gone to one of these roadside wild blueberry sellers I can never get a straight answer, nor verify, where they really do come from.

                      I've also noticed that there are a few farmers that show up at the local farmers markets in Toronto that sell wild blueberries that they grow themselves.

                      As for the difference between MacMillans wild blueberries and President's Choice organic wild blueberries, I will buy some and do a blind taste test and report back. But, one thing I do know is that there is NO comparison between the wild and the larger high bush cultivated blueberries. The former is way much sweeter and has a higher skin to flesh ratio which provides a higher percentage of antioxidants, fiber and other nutrients. I won't even eat the latter ones any more as they taste like cardboard to me and are just not very nutrionally beneficial. The only thing they have going for them is thst they are less expensive.

                      1. re: Flexitarian

                        At the risk of sounding pedantic, there is no such thing as wild blueberries that you grow yourself. MacMillans and Presidents Choice do not grow wild blueberries. This, to me, sounds very confusing for the consumer.

                        I remember a few years back, my father witnessed several vans filled with people who came and started to DECIMATE wild patches of blueberries in a densely forested area near Sudbury. They did not know how to pick them without permanently damaging the bushes (or, more likely didn't care). This is why I never reveal my secret patches to anyone, and why I never purchase from roadside stalls. Caveat emptor.

                        1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                          I never inferred that either MacMillans or Presidents Choice grow their own wild blueberries! But, aside from the ones that happen to grow on their own wild in the bush, someone does grow them. They are a particular cultivar - the low bush blueberry variety. MacMillans in Acton purchases them from a grower in Nova Scotia who picks, washes and immediately flash freezes them and ships them in a tractor trailer truck direct to the store. I have no clue where PC get's theirs from (does anyone?).

                          If you like, I guess you can say there are 3 types of blueberries:

                          1) The wild "wild" ones you pick yourself or someone picks for you from the bush itself in the wild;
                          2) The wild low bush cultivar grown by farmers;
                          3) The high bush cultivar grown by farmers. This is commonly seen in grocery stores year round and are much larger than either #1 or #2.

                          #1 and #2 taste very similar. Indeed #1 picked in different areas of the province will taste slightly different due to soil conditions, rain, sun, etc. #2 tastes simliar and has similar nutrional properties to #1 and unlike #3, but #2 is probably more uniform in taste amongst those grown by different farmers as growing and farming methods would be similar. Furthermore, depending on where #1 grew in the wild, either #1 or #2 might taste better and provide more nutrients.

                          I just wish there was some quality control and ability to know the provenance of these roadside blueberries I see all over the place. I don't mind paying for wild blueberries picked from bushes growing in the wild if that is the case, but not if they are not.

                          'nuff said.

                          1. re: Flexitarian

                            I think the PC product comes from BC. I saw them doing a demo somewhere and asked on the origin and was told at the time they were from BC. Here is the product info (don't think it lists source here though):

                            And thanks for the Acton info. I have been meaning to go to that store since first reading about it, but, now I have reason to go.

                            Oh, and, the price at Whole Foods is around $38/ KG for wild blueberries! Just saw it in the store last night and decided to check the prices to post here.

                            1. re: Flexitarian

                              Wild is wild, and cultivated is cultivated. How are ones grown by farmers "wild" exactly? I find your terminology confusing, that's all.

                              The low bush cultivar berries taste and look very different (to me) than their wild counterparts, so I disagree with you there. The wild blueberries up North that I have been picking since I was 4 years old have a very distinct tartness/sourness that I've never tasted in the low or high bush cultivars. The wild blueberry skin thickness and colour are also distinct (IMO).

                              Fiddleheads grow in the wild too but no one would call farmed fiddleheads "wild".

                              1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                This used to confuse me, too. But I learned that the lowbush blueberries are actually called "wild blueberries" regardless of whether they are grown on a farm or truly in the wild. So I've just come to think of the particular species of blueberries being referred to as "wild blueberries".

                                Here's a paragraph from a blueberry site that refers to wild blueberry "growers", so they are indeed a farmed crop:

                                "Wild Blueberries (vaccinium angustifolium) are distinct from their cultivated cousins in several significant ways. Unlike cultivated (highbush) blueberries, Wild (lowbush) Blueberries are not planted. They are spread primarily by rhizomes or underground runners, which give rise to new shoots and stems. Wild Blueberry fields and barrens contain many different varieties of berries, which accounts for the variations in size and color that characterize the Wild Blueberry crop. Wild Blueberry growers use many modern crop management techniques to carefully tend their fields and encourage growth."


                                1. re: TorontoJo

                                  Thanks Toronto Jo. I read it was a marketing idea to label the lowbush cultivars "wild".

                                  1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                    That would explain a LOT. Good old marketing. :P

                                2. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                                  You may find it confusing but the fact is that the only two nomenclatures used to identify blueberries that you'll see in a supermarket, on a highway fruit stand in the summer or in the frozen food section are wild blueberries and blueberries, the latter being cultivated and the former either being cultivated or, in the rare case, actually being picked in the bush and sold by a retailer..

                                  I was attempting (obviously without success, in your case anyway) to differentiate wild blueberries that are grown in the bush from those that are grown on farms, the latter being not really wild in the strict sense of the word as they are not being grown in the wild. Of course I concede that point. I am not dense. But, the fact remains, that they and their bretheren that are found in the wild in the bush are both called "wild blueberries" everywhere in Canada and the US. And, at the risk of beating this dead horse any more, you will never find the smaller blueberries from low bush cultivatars ever labelled and sold as anytihng but 'wild blueberries' regardless of their provenance and method of growing.

                                  As for low bush cultivars blueberries tasting and looking very different from their wild counterparts, as you call them, I disagree on both counts. I have picked wild blueberries in the bush myself that look exactly like the 'wild blueberries' I buy at MacMillans. As for taste I have found that the ones in the wild can differ in taste from MacMillans - sometimes they taste better and sometimes they taste worse. But, they and the ones I buy at MacMillans always taste WAY better than the larger traditional ones. There is just no comparison. You are taking a very narrow view of wild bluerries from the bush by basing your opinion only on what you've tasted from the particular area you pick them in up North. Just because the ones that you have been picking taste different does not mean that the ones picked ih other bush areas of Ontario with different soil, sun and precipitation (not to mention the insects flying around that someone mentioned above that also have an effect on the blueberries), will taste the same.

                                  In any event, everyone should realize that when they buy blueberries labelled wild (okay I am beating another dead horse here, sorry! lol), they really have no way of knowing if the are the wild type actually picked in the bush or the ones so labelled which are picked from low bush cultivars on farms. I would venture to say though that if you buy them from a retailer like Loblaws (and MacMillans as I have mentioned) they are likely farm-based. What are they if you buy them at a stand up north on the highway? Who knows? But, one thing I know they'll likely tell you they were picked in the bush in order to get you to buy them, even if they weren't.

                                  Want wild blueberries picked in the bush? Go pick them yourself as Splendid Wine Snob does (but unfortunately he/she won't share the location, which I don't blame he/she for not doing!)

                                  1. re: Flexitarian

                                    Flexitarian, thank you for the clear and detailed explanation you've provided regarding the provenance of wild blueberries. What you've described makes sense regarding the huge amounts of wild blueberries sold fresh each summer at roadside stands and farmers' markets, and available frozen year-round in the supermarkets. When Loblaws started selling frozen wild blueberries marked 'organic' it had seemed sort of redundant to me, after all, I wouldn't have expected blueberries supposedly growing wild in the bush to ever be sprayed with pesticides anyway. So I've been buying just the regular frozen wild blueberries and assumed there was no difference.

                                    When I buy them fresh in the summer, I'm going to assume they are probably cultivated, possibly sprayed with pesticides, and treat them accordingly, washing them really thoroughly first.

                        2. re: Flexitarian

                          Bought some a couple of years ago in Midland at a large store parking lot. It was obvious that there were two types of berries. Small intense flavoured wild, and large watery commercial berries. Got shifty glaces and mumbles from the young folk selling them when asked about it. Look and taste before you buy.