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National Blueberry Month: 4 Tips for Picking Berries

In honor of National Blueberry Month, why not gather your friends and family and hit your local berry farm for a day of berry picking?  Summer is the prime season for raspberries, blackberries, strawberries and of course, blueberries.  Besides being a delicious and sweet summertime treat, berries also offer numerous health benefits such as antioxidants and vitamins.  Read on for our favorite tips for making the most of your berry picking adventure!

Chose a Bright Sunny Morning

The early bird gets the worm- and the best berries!  Berries are their driest and most flavorful in the morning and when they’re in the sun.  Making your trip to the berry farm at a time that combines both ensures you get the best berries possible.  Berries that have too much moisture are not only squishy (which dilutes the flavor), but will also go bad faster.  Make sure your group hits the farm bright and early.

Harvest at Peak Ripeness

If you have to really struggle to get a berry off the vine, chances are it’s not ripe yet.  While each berry has its own unique way of showing when it’s ready to eat, a good rule of thumb is that ripe berries are easily picked.  Raspberries are ready to be picked when they reach a deep ruby color, blueberries develop a white powder coating when they’re ripe and strawberries should be bright red but still firm when they’re harvested.

Make the Most of your Bounty with Proper Storage

Due to their soft and porous skin, berries can be tricky to store properly and therefore, can spoil quicker than we might like them to.  Luckily there are a few tricks to help increase the refrigerator life of your freshly-picked berries.

First, it is helpful to know how long each berry will last in the refrigerator.  Typically, strawberries store for about five days, and blackberries and raspberries for about three.  A good way to help extend the lifespan of berries is to wait to wash your fruit until you’re ready to eat it.  Instead of washing fruit all at once, wash it in individual servings just before eating.

Speaking of washing, berries (with the exception of strawberries) are too soft to be rinsed straight from the faucet.  Try filling a colander with your berries and dipping it into a bowl of water.  A few swishes of the colander in the bowl, and you’re good to go!  Simply pat the berries dry with a paper towel and you’re ready to enjoy your fruit.

Pick Extra and Freeze 

It’s hard to beat the flavor of a fresh, right-off-the-vine berry, so make sure to pick as many as you can and freeze the left-overs!  Frozen berries make excellent additions to smoothies, parfaits and theyare also delicious on their own when slightly thawed.  The best part?  Freezing berries couldn’t be easier.  Simply wash and hull (de-stem) the fruit you want to freeze, dry it as best as you can (this will prevent the individual berries from sticking together) and pop them in the freezer.  Juice Plus+ tip:  let the berries firm up on a baking sheet before transferring to a plastic bag or another storage container.

Which berries are you most excited to harvest this summer and how are you going to incorporate them into your cooking?  Tell us in the comments!

References:

http://gardenclub.homedepot.com/berry-picking/?cm_mmc=hd_email-_-GC_M-SOUTH_zone4_L01-_-20140723_GC_FW25_BASE_OTHR_L01_2723036-_-tip1&et_rid=30265925
http://www.bhg.com/recipes/how-to/cooking-basics/how-to-choose-berries/?socsrc=bhgpin062414storewashfreezeberries&crlt.pid=camp.JyqFV1J1vPD2
http://www.frugallivingnw.com/freezing-berries/#_a5y_p=1998210

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