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Berry Bonanza

It’s the best berry year in several years. Get out and take advantage

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 7/20/22

After back-to-back berry busts, it appears the summer of 2022 is headed for a berry bonanza, and that’s good news for bears and berry pickers alike. Credit last year’s drought. Just as …

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Berry Bonanza

It’s the best berry year in several years. Get out and take advantage

Posted

After back-to-back berry busts, it appears the summer of 2022 is headed for a berry bonanza, and that’s good news for bears and berry pickers alike.
Credit last year’s drought. Just as last summer’s extreme dryness helped spark drifts of aspen fluff back in June, it also prompted many berry-producing plants— like juneberries, blueberries, and chokecherries— to kick their production into overdrive.
The late spring likely helped as well, particularly with blueberries, which can often be damaged by early June frosts if they’ve flowered too soon. Cool springs help guard against that possibility by slowing the development of the plant’s flowers until the danger of hard frosts is past.
This year’s juneberry crop appears to be exceptional, with many bushes practically drooping with the ripening fruit. While they may be known as juneberries, these plump, tasty berries typically don’t ripen in the North Country until July and they’re at peak ripeness right about now. Your best bet for finding a good haul of these berries is along some of the area biking and walking trails, roadsides, or field edges, where the bushes are able to get better sunlight.
Juneberries are a great picking option for folks who don’t like the bending and stooping required to pick the lowbush blueberries found in our region. You can pick juneberries standing up and I’ll often even use a ladder to get the berries that are otherwise beyond reach.
Juneberries are a bit dryer than blueberries, so they’re a good addition to a blueberry pie, since they help make it a little firmer.
If you’re holding out for blueberries, you can find plenty of ripe ones now, at least in the higher terrain. Blueberry bushes will grow in sun or shade, but if you want berries in any quantity, they need some sun. Around here, that means recent clearcuts (of black spruce or jack pine, especially) or rocky outcrops where trees are more scattered.
Rocky outcrops can be good, when it rains. Last summer’s drought fried all the berries in the high terrain, but this year we’ve had just enough timely rain to make for nicely-plump berries. It is still a bit spotty on the outcrops this year, and I suspect that has to do with the intensity of last year’s drought. In areas with very shallow soil, which is typical of outcrops, the blueberry bushes were killed or damaged to the point where they’ll need to recover before producing any berries again. But where the berry bushes survived, this year’s production is well above average.
I’ve yet to check some of my lowland blueberry spots, mostly because the berries there typically don’t ripen until late July or early August.
And it’s still way too early to think about chokecherries, which I normally don’t pick until late August or September for wine making. From what I’ve seen, it looks like a bumper crop.
Come mid-September, it’ll be time to check our cranberry locations. It’s been several years of lackluster production so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
The good berry year isn’t just a windfall for human pickers. According to Jessica Holmes, the new Tower DNR area wildlife manager, the number of nuisance bear complaints has fallen pretty dramatically in recent weeks. It appears the bears are finding that the living is easy when the berries are hanging plump and juicy.

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  • brianlafrenier

    I checked the blueberry patch the other week and found that in several spots there were going to be some good berries. I didn't want to trample over too many areas however for fear of stepping on berries that weren't going to ripen for a while yet. There were a few good ones out there but not enough to fill up a gallon bucket. I walked back to my truck to get a small bucket just to get a few berries so we could have just a taste. When I got back to my truck, some person rolled up behind my parked truck and got out. He asked me how they were doing. Now this is a small spot of blueberries and this guy isn't a friend or family and I thought it rude. Maybe it's just me but, when you see someone in a patch, move on to another spot. Don't just push your way into a berry patch when someone is already there. Blueberry picking 101. In this day and age though, you don't know how people will react. I got in my truck and started it up but before leaving, I told him what I thought. I said when you see someone in a spot you intended to pick, move on to another spot. It's rude of you to do this.

    Thursday, July 21 Report this