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Despite dry conditions, blueberry, juneberry, and raspberry crops are robust

Marshall Helmberger

For the second year in a row, the wild fruit crops around the area are bordering on abundant to exceptional, at least in many places. And this year, June’s early heat has left most berry crops ripening ahead of schedule, which means you should get out now if you’re hoping for a few blueberry pies, or raspberry jam, this summer.The relative berry abundance is likely the result of last winter’s heavy snow, which provided enough soil moisture for most berry bushes to weather June’s remarkably hot and dry conditions.

The only exception appears to be the blueberry crop in areas with shallow soils, which were left parched by June’s weather. That means the bedrock outcrops that can provide excellent picking in an average-to-wet year, aren’t likely to yield many berries this summer.

If you’re having a hard time finding blueberries, be on the lookout for juneberries, which are the blueberry’s meatier and often sweeter cousin. This year, many juneberry bushes are loaded with big, juicy, and sweet berries, more than I’ve seen in several years. Walking and biking paths in places like Ely, Tower, and Soudan are good places to look for juneberries. In case you’re not familiar with juneberries, these are tall bushes, often growing ten feet high or more, so they can be easier to pick for those who have a hard time bending down for blueberries. Even if the berries are above your head, you can usually bend the branches down quite a bit without breaking them.

Wild raspberries are also beginning to ripen and also appear to be abundant. And, while they’re far from ripe this early, the wild plum crop looks exceptionally strong as well for those who like to make plum jelly.

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