Wild blueberries in Alberta typically belong to the lowbush variety, sprawling close to the ground in patches rather than growing on taller shrubs. Preferring acidic, sandy, and well-draining soils, they are often found in Alberta's boreal forests and clearings. These perennial plants reproduce through their rhizomes, leading to dense colonies that can turn a patch of ground into a sea of blue when in season.
For generations, Indigenous communities in Alberta have harvested wild blueberries, recognizing their nutritional value and incorporating them into traditional diets and medicines. These berries have played a role in various ceremonies and narratives, illustrating their cultural importance. As settlers moved into Alberta, they too were introduced to the richness of these wild fruits, and the act of blueberry picking became a cherished summer tradition for many.
Albertans, inspired by the intense flavour of wild blueberries, have found myriad ways to celebrate them in cuisine. Freshly picked, they're a joy to eat on their own or sprinkled over cereals and salads. Bakers cherish them for muffins, pies, and pancakes, where their tart-sweet flavour comes alive. They can also be turned into flavourful jams, jellies, and sauces. Savoury dishes, especially game meats, can be complemented with blueberry-based sauces. For preservation, freezing retains their flavour remarkably well, ensuring a taste of summer in the colder months. Indigenous practices have also included drying blueberries or incorporating them into pemmican, a nutrient-dense food made from dried meat and berries.