Quebec Wild Blueberries : A Tradition of ExcellenceSeptember 10, 2017
You already know that here at Oatbox, we love to talk to you about our partner producers, whose expertise is the key of the quality of our products. We have already had the pleasure of introducing our dear friends from Patience, the local company from which we purchase our berries. We recently traveled to Lac-Saint-Jean to visit, you guessed it, one of the huge fields of wild blueberries where Patience supplies themselves. We had the chance to meet with the people in charge of the place who kindly agreed to tell us everything about the history of their organization and this special berry they are growing.
Can you tell us more about the history of your organization?
Founded in 1984, Quebec Wild Blueberries Inc. is an organization that brings together wild blueberry producers and processing firms committed to marketing a distinctive, high-quality product to their clients. Our mission is straightforward: process the wild blueberry, this wonder of nature, to meet the specific needs of our international clientele. We have a better understanding than anyone else of this small blue fruit with such unique properties. From cultivation right through to processing, the blueberry industry holds no secrets for us.
Our team has more than 45 years of experience in purchasing and exporting wild blueberries. Well-established in North America, Europe and Asia, our network of representatives works in close collaboration with us. Whether they are located in China, Germany, Japan or elsewhere, they are continually working to create new contacts and supply their customers with products of exceptional quality that meet market expectations.
How and why did you first start growing blueberries?
Mr. Jean-Eudes Senneville, one of the company's managers, grew up surrounded by wild blueberries fields. He always helped his father, who was in the business. After his studies, he began working with an American company that bought blueberries from Quebec. Then came the production in fields, and knowing the blue fruit better than anyone else, Mr. Senneville then became the reference source in the province. It was therefore a natural path for him to develop this industry.
When was your company founded?
Les Bleuets sauvages du Québec Inc. is a marketing company founded in 1984. Les Bleuetières Senco Inc. (owned by Mr. Senneville) has existed since the mid-1960s.
What is the main difference between the production of wild blueberries and cultivated blueberries?
Wild blueberries can not be transplanted, so they must be naturally present on the territory to be grown. The wild blueberry is also a dwarf blueberry, which grows close to the ground, while the other variety comes from shrub that can be planted almost anywhere and reach heights exceeding 180cm. From a nutritional point of view, wild blueberries also are sweeter, their flesh is more colored and they contain twice as many antioxidants.
How long does blueberries take to grow?
Initially, the land is wooded. Once the trees have been cut and the soil has been laid, it takes between 5 and 7 years before the first production. After that, fields are harvested only every other year. The harvest lasts about 6 weeks and is carried out from early August to mid-September.
The quantity harvested annually?
In Quebec, in 2016, 107 million pounds of wild blueberries were harvested.
What factors will favor or hinder the production of a good crop? Why do wild blueberries grow more in Saguenay and New Brunswick, for example?
In spring, during flowering, a gel occurring would have a negative impact on yields. Then, rain and heat during the summer are essential for good growth. Finally, the date of the first frost in the fall is also important; if an early frost occurs, it is possible that we do not have enough time to harvest everything. It takes a sandy soil, rather poor and rather acid. Generally, the plants are present in areas where forest fires have occurred!
Finally, could you tell us more about the health benefits of wild blueberries?
It is common knowledge that wild blueberries have a delectable aroma and are a healthy treat. They are simply bursting with flavor! Smaller, tastier and sweeter than its cousin, cultivated blueberry, our wild blueberry is unique not only for its taste but also for its ease to keep its form and color throughout a vast variety of manufacturing processes.
But furthermore, a study led by Dr. Willy Kalt of Kentville University in Nova Scotia, Canada, shows that the blue pigmentation of the skin of wild blueberry is a high content of anthocyanin which is a strong antioxidant that kills the free radicals in the human body. Those free radicals are responsible for diseases like cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, etc.