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When Is the Right Time To Pick Blueberries?

Closeup of small bowl of blueberries with more blueberries in the background.  If you love blueberries, have you ever wondered "When is the right time to pick blueberries?"

Have you ever asked yourself, “When IS the right time to pick blueberries?”  Then you’ve come to the right place.  We’ll share some tips for knowing when your blueberries are ripe. We’ll also provide the best practices for harvesting and storing your blueberries.

Making sure your blueberries are harvested at the right time is important for several reasons. Picking your blueberries at the right time will ensure you are getting a sweet and juicy harvest. Picking them too early will leave you with sour blueberries, while gathering them too late in the season could result in a significant number of blueberries being lost to rot. 

Tips for Harvesting Blueberries

Blueberries are some of the easiest berries to pick. However, the quality of the blueberry is significantly affected by the harvesting process. Below are some tips to ensure that you have the best quality berries.

The most important part of the blueberry picking process is identifying which berry to pick. When picking blueberries, choose the berries that are a solid dark blue color.  Berries that are white or green are unripe, while those that are blue with tinges of red and purple are not quite ready to be harvested. It’s best to pick blueberries a few days after they have turned a dark blue color. Those with tinges of red and purple will become dark blue.

The best way to harvest blueberries is to gently roll them off the branch into your palm using your thumb. Berries that are fully ripened will fall off the branch easily. This can be another way to test how ripe the berries are. It is important to roll blueberries off the branch and not pluck them. Plucking blueberries could break its outer skin, which reduces the berries’ shelf life.

Blueberries ripen in bursts from the start of the start to the end of the harvesting season. This means that you’ll have multiple yields from the same bush. You should only harvest the blueberries that are fully ripe during each harvest.

When are Blueberries Ripe?

Depending on your region, blueberries are usually ready for picking between June and August. The first harvest should be done two years after planting the bush. To help the bush become established, pick off the flowers in the first two seasons. The blueberry bush should also be pruned in the first two years, to improve the quality of the established bush. Most blueberry bush varieties reach full production after six years.

Ripe blueberries are usually deep blue and look full and plump. Blueberries that have a tinge of purple or red are not fully ripe and will have a sour taste. These blueberries will continue to darken after they have been harvested but they will not become sweeter. It’s important to make sure blueberries are fully ripe when you pick them. Blueberries are ready for picking when the whole berry turns grey-blue.

Blueberries become sweeter as they ripen on the branches, so a final way to tell whether the blueberries you want to harvest are ripe is by tasting them. This way, you can detect any sourness that may indicate unripe berries.

How To Harvest Large Amounts of Blueberries

Farms that have many bushes with multiple yields during the harvesting season can adopt several methods to make sure that all blueberries are harvested.

U-Pick Berry Farms

Blueberry farms with a huge harvest can adopt the U-pick strategy to help with gathering blueberries. U-pick blueberry farms allow those in need of berries to do the picking themselves.

On some of these farms, the harvest season runs to allow berry picking for multiple berries on the same farm. The blueberry season comes right after the end of the strawberry picking season. The pick-your-own-strawberry clients will often return to the berry farms during the U-pick blueberry seasons.

The berry farms have customized picking manuals for the different berries grown on the farm, because species of berry shrubs can be quite different from one another.  Therefore, the picking strategy used during the u-pick strawberries season cannot be used during the u-pick blueberries season. The farm may have staff supervise those who are picking to make sure that they are correctly harvesting the blueberries.

Offering u-pick options to the public ensures that the farms are able to harvest all the berries on the farm. The farm can also market the picked-for-you blueberries along with other products, such as pies and cakes and other fruits.

Mechanical Harvesting

Berry farms have been adopting mechanization into the picking process, such as a machine that shakes the blueberry plants while providing a surface for the blueberries to land. The shaking is only able to shake off the very ripe berries that are ready for harvest.

Preserving Blueberries After You Harvest Them

Blueberries are packed with many beneficial nutrients. Improperly storing your blueberries after harvesting them can cause them to lose most of what makes them so good for you. Below are some tips on how to store your blueberries for both the short term and long term while making sure they stay nutrient-rich:

Refrigeration

Blueberries can be kept refrigerated in an open container for up to 7 days. The berries start losing their nutrients and moisture content if they’re stored in the refrigerator for longer than 7 days. It’s best to make sure the blueberries are consumed within 7 days. If you wish to store blueberries for a longer period of time, then you’ll need to freeze them. 

Freezing

Frozen blueberries can be kept for up to 1 year and there are several steps to make sure the berries are correctly frozen.

To start, the blueberry should be washed gently under cool running water. They should then be left to dry in a colander or strainer until they are all dry. The dry berries are spread on a baking sheet without touching in a single layer and put in the freezer.

After every 3 to 4 hours, the blueberries should be frozen. The berries should then be transferred to airtight jars or any airtight freezer-safe packaging once frozen.

Blueberry Jam

The other way to enjoy your blueberries for longer is to make jam with them. Jam can be prepared using frozen or fresh blueberries.

To make jam, place blueberries in a heavy-bottomed pan over low heat. The heat will cause the blueberries to start releasing juices at the bottom of the pan. Stir continuously until they release all their juices. Increase the heat and keep stirring until the blueberries come to a boil.

Take the pan off the heat and add sugar to the mixture. A potato masher can be used to mix in the sugar while giving the mixture a more even consistency and breaking up the larger berries.

The mixture should be reheated until it attains a jelly-like consistency. The jam is ready to be ladled into airtight jars and processed in boiling water to help in extending the jam’s shelf life.

FAQ

What Should I Wear When Picking?

The blueberry harvesting outfit should protect you from the elements and be comfortable. Be sure to wear colors that won’t show stains from blueberries.

A pair of comfortable, protective boots will make moving from one blueberry bush to the next during picking safe. Your outfit should provide sun protection while also keeping you cool in the summer heat.

Don’t forget sunscreen when picking blueberries!

Can I Grow Blueberries in a Container?

Yes! Growing the blueberry bush in a container can make it easy to manage the plant. When the bush is planted in a container, it’s easier to keep the blueberries safe from the elements and wildlife because the bush can be moved to a protected location.

Containers also make it possible to grow blueberries where the soil doesn’t support them. Doing your research will help you create a potting mixture that meets the requirements for growing blueberries.

So…When Is the Right Time To Pick Blueberries?

Blueberries are ready for picking from early June to early August. Blueberries that are completely blue and sweet are the ones that are ready for picking.

Because blueberry bushes yield multiple berry harvests, you’ll want to visit your garden’s bushes on a regular basis so that you don’t lose overripe berries to rot. Knowing how to correctly harvest and store your blueberries will guarantee you’ll have delicious berries to enjoy for both the short and long term.

Closeup of blueberry muffins with loose blueberries around them.  Harvesting and freezing blueberries picked at the right time can pay off months later.
Frozen blueberries can be used to make muffins in the fall and winter.

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