Learn How to Harvest And Store Seasonal Berries

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Berry Season

It’s berry season so let’s focus on how to harvest and store several popular berry varieties like blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

It’s Berry Season!

When I moved to my new home last year, I knew I had two huge blueberry bushes, but I had no idea about the rest until spring hit. I found out that I have blackberries, black raspberries, and wineberries too! But they all ripen at different times. So how can I harvest them all and use them when I want to? Here are a few great tips!

Identifying Berry Types

One of the things I had to learn was what kind of berries I had. I knew the blueberries, but the others confused me. Here are some pointers to identify your berries.

Blueberries

Blueberries can vary from one type to another. They typically bloom in the spring with bell-shaped flowers. Some blueberries are shiny and some are more powdery looking.

Blackberries

Blackberries are fat and elongated. I have thornless and wild blackberries with thorns. Some are larger and some are smaller, but the shape is about the same. I have a lot of blackberries this berry season!

Black Raspberries

Black Raspberries, or Black Caps, are shaped much like a raspberry, but overall are smaller. They are also hollow on the inside of the cap where raspberries are fleshy. Black raspberries are ripe when black, but bitter and acrid when red.

Wineberries

Wineberries are an “eat where you stand” berry season delicacy. They are like a large raspberry with much the same flavor, but very fragile. They almost never make it home, so I tend to eat them right where I find them. You could put them in a jar and just be prepared to have sauce when you get home.

Raspberries

Raspberries are typically red but also come in darker and golden types as well. They are large and juicy, compared to black raspberries which are smaller.

Dewberries and Tayberries

Dewberries and Tayberries are hybrids of raspberries and blackberries. They are often very large and more purple than black.

There are many more types of berries growing during berry season, but we’ll concentrate on these today.

Berries Ripen Successionally

Most all of the berries mentioned above will ripen in succession. This means that usually, the central berry will ripen first, then others will follow one at a time. This makes it easy to harvest from a large bush or a large number of plants, rather than all at one time.

During berry season I do just that. I’ll harvest the first ripe berry on each cane, leaving the rest to ripen. I then give them a few days and then go back and pick once again. Picking this way tends to keep pests and diseases down. Fruit flies love overripe fruit and can spoil immature fruit by laying their eggs on or nearby the fruit. Bears, which we have many in the area, love ripe fruit. By keeping the fruit picked, the bears will be less likely to visit. Same with the birds and smaller wildlife in the area. They will be less likely to return if there is no ripe fruit for them to snack on.

I harvest my berries into buckets that are made just for berries. They are non-BPA plastic that has many holes on the sides. This allows for air circulation so there is not too much moisture in the bucket.

Berry Season Storage

The first rule of thumb with berries is to not wash them! Washing them often leaves too much water on them which can easily lead to mold. If you are going to use the berries within a few hours, then refrigerate them until just before you use them. Then go ahead and wash them.

Freeze Them

If you aren’t going to use them right away, you can freeze them this berry season. I wash mine and then spread them out on a cookie sheet and freeze them. This is known as IQF, or individually quick frozen. Once the berries freeze, you can place them in storage containers. I use silicone zip-top bags. Freezing them this way makes them much less likely to stick together. You can also freeze them after washing them right in the bag. They may tend to clump together. But, if you’ll be making a sauce or pie, this won’t really matter as much.

Can Them

You can also can them into a premade pie filling or just in simple syrup, like in this article. I didn’t have a lot of freezer space before I got my chest freezer, so I canned a lot of my berries for later use.

It’s berry season! Will you be harvesting soon? These tips will help make the chore easier!

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About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon! Connect with Debra Maslowski on G+.

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