|Wild blueberries Vaccinium corymbosum|
Blueberries were my first wild food, and have remained my most constant.
As a boy, growing up here in New England, I sought them in the pine and oak woods around my father’s house. Small, sweet, and dusty blue, they hung in clusters, concealed by the leaves of the ground-hugging bushes. With a quart container filled, I would head back to the house, where my father mixed them into pancake batter, dropped by the ladleful onto a sizzling griddle.
In my twenties, as a vegan, I continued to pick them and savor the fullness of their taste.
Even today—when the wild foods in our kitchen include everything from white-tailed deer and fiddleheads to chanterelles and indigo milk caps—there is something special about stumbling onto a patch of blueberry bushes.
Heavy with fruit, they might cling to crevices in the rocky hillside my wife and I have been hiking. On a warm summer day, the berries come as unexpected gifts: morsels of transmuted earth, sun, and soil. I dig a plastic bag out of my pack and we start picking and snacking. Half an hour and two quarts later, we’ve hardly made a dent.
Walking away, we talk about what we’ll make with them. Yes, I’ll make some pancakes. Yes, Cath will make a batch of jam. Assuming enough berries make it back to the kitchen.
Danny: Blueberries are native to North America. They are often confused with the European bilberries, which while similar in appearance and taste, are a different species. While blueberries are obviously essential for muffins and pancakes, a recent study has indicated that daily blueberry consumption can improve memory functioning, at least in older adults with impaired memory.