Crabtree's Pick-Your-Own Highbush Blueberries
703 Bridgton Road (Route 107)
Sebago, ME 04029-3344
Phone (207) 787-2730
Fax (207) 787-2531
[ Directions ]
[ Hours and Prices ]
[ About Blueberries ]
[ Blueberry Recipes ]|
We have added a new feature to our Crabtree's Collection Old Books website, and this summer will be offering a new service at our Maine Farmhouse. The first varieties of our highbush blueberries will be ripe around mid-July, and we will open our Pick-Your-Own Blueberry (PYO) operation to the public for the picking season. If you have been following the Maine Farmhouse Journals you know how pleased and proud we are of our old place here (see Bears in the Blueberry Bushes), and the PYO Blueberry operation will give us a chance to share a part of our experience with all of you.
This webpage contains directions to the farm, our hours of operation and prices, information about the history of blueberries, and tips on picking and storing blueberries as well as links to several blueberry recipe websites.
When we purchased the Farmhouse in August 1998, one of the bonus features was the extensive mature plantings of highbush blueberries in the side field. The former owner, Dot, had planted and nurtured hundreds of highbush blueberry bushes. They are now 10 to 12 years old, and bear sweet, juicy blueberries the size of your thumb. The chest-high bushes almost bend over under the weight of clusters of berries. The picking is easy, and the berries are wonderful. There are several different varieties that ripen at different times during the summer, so there are blueberries to pick from mid-July until mid-September most years. We look forward to seeing you this summer - watch this page to see when the different varieties of highbush blueberries are ripe and ready to pick!
Crabtree's PYO Highbush Blueberries is located west of Sebago Lake, near the Maine/New Hampshire border. We are on Maine Route 107, just 1 1/2 miles north of the Sebago Town Hall, and about 10 miles south of Bridgton. It is an easy drive from anywhere around Sebago Lake, and from the seacoast as well. Bring your picnic lunch and make a trip to the blueberry patch a day outing. Check the map below, or call (207-787-2730) for directions. If you'd like, you could also send an E-mail.
Once the blueberries are ripe and ready to pick, we are open most days of the week until 5:00 PM. We suggest that you call ahead to confirm that the berries are ripe, and to check directions if necessary. If it is a really bad, rainy day, we probably won't be open - but then you probably won't want to pick in the heavy rain anyway. So call first if you can (207-787-2730), or send an E-mail. .
We have tried to make your PYO outing a pleasant one. There is plenty of parking close to the berries, and the lanes between the highbush blueberries are kept mowed for easy access. You'll find picnic tables in the shade under the trees, and you and your family and friends are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a day outing with us. Summer cabin full of visitors? Bring them out on an outing that everyone will enjoy - and you will end up with a freezer full of blueberries from their efforts!
Bring your own containers, or borrow our picking buckets that we have at the farm stand. When you are done picking, we have free plastic bags to bring your blueberries home in, or you may purchase quart containers. We also have ready picked fruit in the cooler that you may purchase if you don't have time to pick your own.
At the farm stand we have blueberry crafts, jams and jellies, water and soft drinks, and t-shirts on sale. For your convenience we also have a water tap and a porta-potty on site as well.
Maine's state berry is the blueberry, and there is a thriving industry of both wild and cultivated blueberries in the state. Blueberries are also known as bilberries, whortleberries, and hurtleberries. They get their name from their velvety, deep-blue color. Before the arrival of Europeans in North America, indigenous people gathered and dried the fruit for use in winter.
Blueberries are members of the Ericaceae family, which also includes rhododendron, azalea, Indian pipe, heath, cranberry, and huckleberry. Most members of this family require acid soils for good growth and reproduction. The Ericaceae family has four subfamilies, including the Vaccinioideae, which includes the genus Vaccinium. The genus Vaccinium comes from the Latin "vacca" for cow since cows love them, a fact first noted by Captain James Cook in the late 1700s. Vaccinium contains 400 species, including blueberries.
The most popular variety is Vaccinium corymbosum, the "highbush" blueberry. Also popular in Maine is the wild lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), but we prefer the highbush variety because the berries are larger and much easier to pick. I think the flavor is comparable as well. Lowbush blueberries are usually harvested using a blueberry rake (incidentally, which was invented by a Mainer, Abijah Tabbut, in 1822). Highbush blueberries grow on bushes that are 4-8 feet tall, making picking by hand an easy job. They also grow in the wild, and prefer wet, boggy habitats. For example, there are large wild highbush blueberries along the marshy edge of Peabody Pond, just to the north of the Farmhouse.
The first cultivated highbush blueberries were transplanted from the wild. One of the early workers in this field was Elizabeth White of Whitesbog, New Jersey. She was a commercial cranberry grower who had her workers search for exceptional wild blueberry bushes and transplant them to her farm. Another early plant breeder was Dr. Frederick Coville, a botanist for the US Department of Agriculture, who used native plants from New Hampshire. In 1911, White and Coville began working on new hybrids on White's farm. Together they developed 8 varieties from wild selections and 15 improved varieties by 1937. There are at least 40 improved cultivated varieties of highbush blueberries for northern climes on the market today, developed for disease and frost resistance, large flavorful berries, and consistently high yields.
We have four varieties of highbush blueberries at the farm - Blue Crop, Berkeley, Elliot, and Jersey. The Blue Crop ripen first, usually in mid-July. Berkeley ripen next, followed by the Elliots and Jerseys. There are usually ripe berries to pick all summer long, and into early September. Each variety has its own character. Some are large and sweet and just right for fruit salads, blueberry pancakes, and to top your breakfast cereal. Others are wonderful for pies and baking. When you come to the farm we'll let you know which berries are ripe and ready to pick, and you can choose the variety that you like best - or pick some of each!
Blueberries not only taste good, they are good for you! Blueberries are high in antioxidants. In a USDA study (Tuft's University, Human Nutrition Center on Aging, 1998) the blueberry surpassed 40 other fruits and vegetables in its ability to neutralize free radicals - particles that damage your cells in ways that lead to cancer, heart disease and the effects of aging. Blueberries also contain vitamins A and C, zinc, potassium, iron, calcium and magnesium, and are high in fiber and low in calories.
Blueberries were prominent in Russian folk medicine, used as a preventative measure and cure for flux and other abdominal problems. During World War II, British Royal Air Force pilots consumed bilberries (a blueberry relative), which purportedly improved their night vision. Later studies showed a sound basis for this practice, because of the iron content of blueberries.
When picking, select berries that are completely blue, with no tinge of red. Blueberries must be ripe when picked, as they do not continue to ripen after harvesting. That natural shimmery silver coating you see on blueberries is desirable as it is a natural protectant. Avoid soft, watery or moldy blueberries. Keep them refrigerated, unwashed in a rigid container covered with clear wrap. They should last up to two weeks after picking. Water on fresh berries hastens deterioration, so do not wash before refrigerating.
Blueberries are an excellent candidate for freezing. After thawing, they are only slightly less bright and juicy as in their original harvest state. Do not wash them before freezing as the water will cause the skins to become tough. Rinse after thawing and before eating. To freeze for future cooking, place the berries in a rigid covered container with one inch of space for expansion. If you plan on serving them in the future in their thawed, uncooked state, pack them in a syrup made of 4 cups water plus 3 cups sugar, seal and freeze. For crushed or pureed blueberries, add 1 to 1-1/2 cups sugar for each quart. Frozen blueberries will keep for a year at 0o F. Blueberries are also easily canned or dried at home.
There are as many recipes containing blueberries as there were shrimp recipes in "Forrest Gump". The following links to blueberry recipe collections should get you started.
After the blueberry picking season is over, there is work to be done to prune and fertilize the bushes, and get them ready for the next year. The autumn, winter, and spring seasons in the blueberry patch are pretty in their own way. We just wanted to share a few pictures with you to look at, while you are enjoying the bounty of summer blueberries that you have stored in your freezer.
Please call us if you have any questions or suggestions, and we hope to see you at Crabtree's PYO Highbush Blueberries this summer.
This page was last updated March 1, 2001.
Copyright © 2001 by Allen Crabtree
Copyright © 2001 by Allen Crabtree