Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Les bleuets

bleuet (bluh-(eh)) : blueberry

Summer has set in, which means locally and seasonally available fruit. Peter eats apples daily and that they are not in season is readily apparent in the produce aisle: the apples on offer are either the rump end of the last year's harvest or flown in from New Zealand with a heavy carbon footprint.

A few weeks ago I went out to Westham Island and bought local strawberries from a farm stand. Strawberries' short peak season is drawing to a close, but blueberries are now coming into season. Last weekend's market had the season's first local blueberries for sale.

I have a very particular memory associated with blueberries. This particular childhood memory consists of visiting my Grandpapa in Québec during the summers in the 90s. I don't remember what kind of car her had, but it was an older model from the 70s or 80s and had the option of seating three in the front seat. My Grandpapa lived in the Québec countryside. Grandpapa, dad, my two sisters, two cousins, and I would pile into the car and drive up a gravel country road to our ancestral lands. I remember it was a bumpy ride and occasionally a small rock would ping the side of the car, as happens when driving on gravel roads. My Grandpapa would then lead the way and show us to where the wild blueberry bushes were and we would pick blueberries. Cueillir les bleuets. So many blueberries. This is one of my fondest childhood memories and I recall it whenever I eat plain blueberries.

But when I got to France, les bleuets were not les bleuets. Instead they were called myrtilles.

myrtille (meer-tee(l)) : blueberry

In France, bleuets were a type of flower. Basically indistinguishable to the average person, the blue berries called myrtilles and bleuets are related, but different genera of Vaccinium.

(photo of blueberries by Ashley of Hither & Thither featured on Cup of Jo; flower drawing by Carl Axel Magnus Lindman, public domain via Wikipedia)

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