Sunday, April 19, 2015

Early cultivation of blueberries in history

American Indians have gathered the fruit for centuries and still contribute considerably to the harvest. It was they who introduced the practice of burning to control encroaching shrubs, trees and other unwanted “weeds” and to kill the pests and disease that invade the blueberry patches.

This method was very discriminating and the European settlers arriving in Maine found a wild, desolate landscape, often with many thousands of acres charred and apparently barren, In Washington County, Maine, the first area of land was officially designated a “barren” in 1796.

This term is now widely used to describe such wild, open spaces and “blueberry barrens” refer to the area with large patches of lowbush blueberries. It was soon apparent that blueberries thrived under these burning practices and anybody who wanted to could descend on the barrens to harvest the berries for their own use and later resale.
Blueberry pie

By the end of the eighteenth century, most of the land was owned by settlers but others could still freely access it. The freeloaders continued with their indiscriminate burning, which not only increased the area where blueberries thrived but also did considerable damage to the land.

A stumpage fee was introduced in 1871, a levy that was collected from anyone gathering wild blueberries and that was designed to compensate landowners and to reduce indiscriminate burning. Larger landowners began to lease out areas of land to control production and harvesting and that was the beginning of modern management of wild blueberries.

Two innovations that occurred in the mid of 1800s stand out, the first was the introduction of canning, which began in the 1860s out the need to feed Federal troops of the Union Army during Civil War.

Canning undoubtedly helped to increase the demand for wild blueberries, and many tons were shipped out by boats form small poets along the Maine coastline. The building of the railways changed that, however, and by 1899 the Washington County Railroad transported virtually all blueberry fruit and blueberry products out of the area.

The second innovations occurred in 1883. As can be appreciated, picking the small berries individually and by hand is a lengthy and tedious business and one that becomes increasingly uneconomic. The blueberry rake invented by Abijah W. Tabbut, revolutionized the whole business of wild blueberry hosting.
Early cultivation of blueberries in history

The Most Popular Posts