New & NowSummerFruitFarms

Our Best Berry Picking Tips and 12 Ways to Use Your Haul

3 Save

If you like it, save it!

Save and organize all of the stuff you love in one place.

Got it!

If you like something…

Click the heart, it's called favoriting. Favorite the stuff you like.

Got it!

One of my mother’s best friends comes from a dairy farming family, who also grew a lot of their own food, so I can always count on her for agricultural advice (I have yet to take advantage of her depth of dairy farming knowledge). She’s come through on everything from troubleshooting issues in my small backyard garden to sharing advice on activities like berry picking.

When she was younger, she and her friends would go blueberry picking with buckets strapped to their belts (see #3 below). They would belly up to the blueberry bushes, grab clusters of blueberries and gently roll ripe blueberries off with their thumbs down into their buckets. This method is faster than plucking off individual blueberries, and unripe berries won’t come loose from gentle rolling, so they’re left on the bush to continue ripening. (Plus it also naturally lent itself to calling themselves members of the Blueberry Rolling Association, complete with giggle-inducing acronym.)

Advertisement

Depending on where you are, strawberry season might be nearly over (or even long-gone), but there is still a full summer of other berries to be had, and likely a u-pick farm not too far from you. So here are 9​ more of our best berry-picking tips (ideas for other clever group names are up to you):

How to Select, Store, and Eat Blueberries
+
How to Select, Store, and Eat Blueberries

1. Call ahead

What’s that? You checked their website/Facebook page/Twitter feed; they’re definitely open,​ and you hate talking on the phone, so you’re all set? Yeah, me too. Call anyway. Most farmers don’t have time to update social media every day, and the picking conditions can change drastically day-to-day, especially if there’s been rain or a dramatic change in temperatures. Calling ahead could save you the potential for a disappointing trip if they’ve had to close early.

2. Go early in the day

Especially on the weekends, going right when the farm opens (or shortly thereafter) means you’ve got the best shot at the berries, and less-congested fields. Waiting until mid-day means you might be fighting crowds and the berries could be picked over.

Advertisement
Blackberries and Sweet and Savory Ways to Use Them

Blackberries and Sweet and Savory Ways to Use Them by Lindsay-Jean Hard

+
Down & Dirty: Strawberries

Down & Dirty: Strawberries by Nozlee Samadzadeh

+

3. Consider BYOB

That’s Bringing Your Own Basket, of course. Some farms will have containers ready for you free of charge, but others will charge you for them. If you don’t want to pay an additional fee, find out ahead of time, or just come prepared. Shallower containers are generally better: blueberries can handle being stacked fairly deep in buckets, but other berries, like strawberries and raspberries, are more delicate and shouldn’t be, so a large shallow container will give you more room to work with. Additionally, if you’re picking blueberries, considering bringing not only a bucket but also planning to wear a belt or bring rope so that you can strap the bucket to you—it will get heavy before you know it.

4. Pack supplies

Berry picking is fun, but especially if you are planning on getting a lot of berries, you could be busy for hours, you’ll want to be prepared. Bring a wide-brimmed hat and sunscreen (those are self-explanatory, right?) and possibly bug spray if you’ll be near a more wooded area. Pack snacks: Yes, you’ll be eating berries, but you can only eat so many at a time; eventually you might want something with a little more substance. And don’t forget cash, while many farms will take credit cards or other forms of payment, don’t count on it (unless you already asked when you called).

Mulberries: The Fruit That's Probably Growing in Your Yard Right Now
+
Mulberries: The Fruit That's Probably Growing in Your Yard Right Now

5. Stay put

It can be tempting to stay in constant motion, only taking the biggest berries that catch your eye. If you’re wise, though, you’ll stay in one spot, taking the time to really look under leaves or at the tops and bottoms of bushes before moving on—you’ll conserve energy and be able to pick for longer. This doesn’t mean you have to pi​ck an area entirely clean; for instance, only selecting the biggest and fully ripe blueberries in a cluster provides more space for the smaller unripe berries to ripen for later picking.

6. Dress appropriately

Wear clothing you don't mind getting stained and consider long-sleeved shirts and pants, especially if you’ll be picking berries on thorny canes. Choose footwear that is comfortable for standing and walking and ones that you don’t mind getting dirty (think old tennis shoes over flip-flops).

Golden Raspberries: Pale Packs a Punch

Golden Raspberries: Pale Packs a Punch by Lindsay-Jean Hard

+
Black Raspberries and 11 Berry Good Ways to Use Them

Black Raspberries and 11 Berry Good Ways to Use Them by Lindsay-Jean Hard

+

7. Recognize that kids change the focus

Berry picking is a great activity for kids, as long as you think of it as just that—a fun activity. This is not the trip for you to plan on picking multiple flats of strawberries or all of the blueberries you want to can this season; save that for another time and keep your expectations in check. Consider your child’s age and temperament, and if you’d think they’ll have fun, go for it! Give them a run-down of what to expect ahead of time, like how to tell the difference between ripe and unripe berries and how to gently pick and place the berries in a container. Oh, and pack wet wipes.

8. Ask about seconds

You already know to ask about seconds at the farmers market—that’s the produce that might not look as good (or that needs to be used more quickly) that farmers might give you at a discounted price. Try asking about them at u-pick farms, too. They might have already picked berries that are a little too ripe, perfect for a batch of jam.​

How to Keep Berries Fresh for Longer
+
How to Keep Berries Fresh for Longer

9. Wash your berries when you get home

It goes against everything you always hear, but washing berries right away in a vinegar and water bath will eliminate mold and bacteria and significantly extend their lifespan.

Once you’ve picked buckets and baskets worth of berries, we’ve got a dozen ideas for putting them to berry good use:​

Black Raspberry Ice Cream

Black Raspberry Ice Cream by Merrill Stubbs

Heda's Mostly Blackberry Pie with Hazelnut Crumb Crust

Heda's Mostly Blackberry Pie with Hazelnut Crumb Crust by primarycookies

Blueberry Schlumpf

Blueberry Schlumpf by Marian Bull

Blueberry Cake Donut Bars

Blueberry Cake Donut Bars by Erin McDowell

Coconut Spelt Scones with Blueberries

Coconut Spelt Scones with Blueberries by Eat Already!

Raspberry Fruit Roll-Ups

Raspberry Fruit Roll-Ups by Miranda Keyes

Yogurt and Berry Tart with a Pecan Crust

Yogurt and Berry Tart with a Pecan Crust by fiveandspice

Helen’s Summer Berry Pudding with Rose Cream

Helen’s Summer Berry Pudding with Rose Cream by Alice Medrich

Blackberry, Rosemary, and Yogurt Ice Pops

Blackberry, Rosemary, and Yogurt Ice Pops by Amanda Hesser

Strawberry Buttermilk Gelato

Strawberry Buttermilk Gelato by Posie Harwood

Blueberry Cake with Peanut Streusel

Blueberry Cake with Peanut Streusel by Sarah Jampel

Pavlova with Boozy Blueberry Sauce

Pavlova with Boozy Blueberry Sauce by Deborah Davis

What are your best berry picking tips? Tell us in the comments!

Tags: berry picking, u-pick