A group of us spent a much-too-brief two days on beautiful Prince Edward Island in early June, to learn about wild blueberries with Wyman’s of Maine.
Our first evening, we toured the gardens at Inn of Bay Fortune, a delightful inn on the far eastern edge of the island who hosted us for our stay.
This is the daughter of Jeff and Carey Wood, the husband-and-wife farm team who manage the crops. We plucked a selection of herbs and greens, like sorrel and edible flowers, to toss with our salad.
This amazing woman is the sommelier at the FireWorks, the intensely fire-inspired restaurant where we ate many of our meals. She showed us how to saber a bottle of sparkling wine. She is a total badass.
Being a nerdy lover of the west coast’s wild huckleberries, I was all over east coast wild blueberries. They are related, not only in that they are both of the vaccinium family, but also in that they can’t really be cultivated. I had no idea how a non-cultivatable crop could become a commercial venture. What I learned is that a forest where blueberry bushes grow is cleared of tall trees whose shade keeps them in check, so that it becomes a field where blueberries dominate. Some other smaller flowering plants are kept in the field, as they are loved by bees and bees are an essential component in the success of a blueberry crop. We forget how essential bees are to all of our cultivated produce – but without bees to pollinate our fruits and veggies, we’d have no fruits and veggies.
Peter Dillon is Wyman’s beekeeper on PEI. He has spent his life cultivating the slow craft of understanding the behavior and nuance of bees, and I loved learning from him. The topic of Monsanto and pesticides was a little danced around – they use Round-up – but he did make clear many times that he’d prefer less pesticide use than more. Wyman’s is participating in a fair amount of research into sustaining healthy bee populations, which is awesome. You can read more about that here.
Then we donned bee suits and went deep into the blueberry fields to learn more about bees. Turns out that bees are so focused on doing their work – it is a busy life for those little dudes – that our protective gear seemed more of a protection against the aggressive onslaught of biting flies and mosquitoes than anything else.
It was really delightful to spend a warm, sunny afternoon deep in the fields, with the loud buzzing of bees in the air, and the privilege of a look into their focused lives. Peter said the most important thing to remember with bees is to be curious, and not scared. Good advice for life, generally.
And then we had one final, epic meal, with the charismatic, charmingly rakish Michael Smith, at his restaurant, FireWorks. We feasted in the garden on oysters – with a surprisingly tasty, tart blueberry mignonette – imbibed more blueberry-centric drinks, and moved to the front fire pit where burgers (and lentil burgers) were cooked over a lively, hot fire.
The evening was finished with s’mores. The gluten-free folks in our group got chocolate “dirt” instead of a housemade graham cracker – and oh em gee, this was the best s’mores of my life. The marshmallows were blueberry-studded, homemade marvels, and we toasted (erm, charred) them over the fire with glee.
Some of the lovely, quirky details around the Inn at Bay Fortune Property.
Happiest wet dog ever! Loved this big, friendly fella, even though he greeted me with the muddiest of paws. Good thing I was well-covered in rain gear.