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Eating fresh picked wild blueberries out of my hand is one of the great joys of summer in Maine. Last year I had the privilege of venturing into Maine’s wild blueberry barrens with Nat Lindquist, formerly V.P. of Operations and now a consultant for Wyman’s, one of the largest wild blueberry growers and producers of frozen fruit in the world. We drove around the barrens, walked through the processing plant, and talked all things wild blueberries.
About ten miles from Wyman’s base of operations in Cherryfield, Maine the landscape opens up and I found myself driving down a two-lane road with acres of blueberry barrens spreading out on one side of the road and a “blue village” and processing facility on the other. Behind 1,200 acres of nothing but lowbush blueberries are a line of trees and then more barrens and more barrens. Get the picture?
My first few years in Maine I was drawn to the iconic imagery of the families who hand pick the blueberries. In recent years, the images remain in B&W files tucked into the depths of my computer. The reality is migrant workers have taken over most of those jobs —and please note I’m making no political statement here whatsoever, just stating the facts. Sometimes referred to as “follow the crop” migrant farmworkers, they travel from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Canada going from one place to the next picking fruit. GQ published a great article on these workers, if you have time check it out.
Part of my tour of Wyman’s facility involved seeing the village where some of the 400 – 450 migrant workers the company employs live while they are bringing in the crop. Blue cabins, RV’s, garments hung on clotheslines, a couple cantinas, and a food truck serving Mexican food (I was told for those with a hearty stomach). It’s another world all together in that part of Maine and the fact is never so evident as in August during the harvest.
To celebrate the harvest … a recipe for Wild Blueberry-Oat Scones from one of my favorite bakeries on the planet — Standard Baking Co. in Portland, Maine. Thanks for sharing Alison!!
Note: The most you can fit on a baking sheet is 6. If you have only one baking sheet, position the rack in the center of the oven. The additional batter can sit at cool room temperature while the first batch is baking. After the baking sheet has cooled you can bake the last round. Note that the second batch may be taller and rounder than the first because the oats have a tendency to absorb moisture as the mixture sits.
Makes 9 scones
2 1/2 cups flour (high-extraction or bolted whole wheat flour, but all-purpose flour is fine too)
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, chilled
3/4 cup rolled oats*, plus more for garnish
3/4 cup fresh or frozen wild blueberries
1 1/2 cups half-and-half (more or less depending on the absorption of the flour)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for garnish
*Standard Baking Co. uses Aurora Mills Organic Rolled Oats