If you love hiking, biking, and kayaking, then your Maine vacation is likely to take you to Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island. And by the time you’ve finished exploring—there are 125 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads–you will have worked up quite an appetite. Since you’re in Maine, satisfying it means lobster. But it also means blueberries. And if you thought blueberries just meant blueberry pie, then you have some culinary exploration in store for you as well!
This flavor adventure is about wild blueberries, not the big fat cultivated variety found year-round in grocery stores. Wild blueberries grow naturally in the fields and barrens that stretch along Maine’s Downeast coast. More intense in flavor than their cultivated cousins, they are an ephemeral pleasure, in season for only six short weeks in late summer.
Here are my favorite ways to enjoy wild blueberries both on vacation and back at home as a memory-inducing agent as effective as any madeleine.
Celebrate summer with blueberry pie. Locals were the first ones to rave to me about Mary’s pies, which she sells next to her home in a cottage called Island Bound Treats, 302 Main Street, just outside of downtown Southwest Harbor. If you only want a slice, stop by the Quietside Café in town. Frances bakes her blueberry pies mile high.
Try blueberry spice cake. Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bass Harbor has become a destination for visitors to Acadia. The lobster dinner includes the celebrated crustacean, corn on the cob, coleslaw, a roll, and Thurston’s own blueberry spice cake. We always take home extra spice cake for the next day’s breakfast.
Sample blueberry muffins by scouting fairs and festivals. You’ll benefit from the friendly competition of the local bakers who are contributing to some important causes. For example, every August the Somesville Village Library hosts a book sale and blueberry festival replete with treats.
Get a cone of blueberry buttermilk ice cream at MDI Ice Cream at 7 Firefly Lane and 325 Main Street in Bar Harbor, even though blueberry wasn’t President Obama’s choice when he visited this award-winning artisanal ice cream shop. He picked coconut. Frankly, our favorite is salt caramel—scooped on top of blueberry pie, of course.
Buy blueberry scones or other blueberry-laden treats at the Sunday farmers’ market in Bar Harbor. From 9am until noon, May through October, it’s right off Main Street in the YMCA parking lot. Bring a thermos of coffee and hike to nearby Great Head for breakfast overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Pick your own blueberries on the mountain as you explore Acadia National Park. Wild blueberries abound along trails. The National Park Service allows you to pick as much as you can eat! If you remember the proper containers, you can also take two quarts per day home. That’s enough for blueberry pancakes and a whole lot more.
Buy local. If you don’t have time to pick your own, you can buy wild blueberries at roadside stands and local markets throughout Mount Desert Island. You’ll find them at Sawyer’s Market in Southwest Harbor and supermarkets such as Hannaford’s in Bar Harbor.
Keep summer alive with blueberry vodka. Cold River flavors its potato vodka with wild blueberries for a two-in-one winner of Maine’s bounty. I like combining it with lemonade and a touch of club soda, but it’s most distinctive on the rocks. Wine Enthusiast Magazine called it “an 80-proof homage to Mother Nature with a voluminous bouquet and a finish like the holy chorus of blueberries.”
Bring blueberries home in a jar. Maine’s Own Treats at 68 Bar Harbor Road in Trenton is a perfect place to stop for blueberry jams and jelly as you’re departing Mount Desert Island. They’re homemade in small batches with no dyes or preservatives. My favorite is the blueberry preserves, which I use to top ice cream and blueberry cake! Don’t go home without ‘em.