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Berry Picking: When to Pick Your Garden Berries

Berries are quintessential summer crops that bring immense satisfaction to backyard gardeners everywhere. Berries come in different types, are bursting with antioxidants and incredible flavor, and have many uses in delicious drinks and dishes. Berry picking is fun but knowing how and when to harvest them is a crucial component to getting the most out of your crops. When are berry varieties optimally plump and ripe for the picking? Follow our robust guide for how and when to pick berries for optimum flavor and nutrition.

Close up of a hand picking blackberries.

Blackberry

Look for berries that are uniformly deep black, shiny, and ready for picking. If your berries are in the red hue, they are not ready for picking, and they will be tart and less juicy than their ripened counterparts. Gently pull berries off their stems, store in the refrigerator, and wash before eating.

High in protein, fiber, and vitamins, blackberries are wonderful eaten as a stand-alone fruit. They also make fabulous additions to yogurt, cream, cereal, salads, and desserts. Savor blackberries all year long by making them into jams and jellies.

Blueberry

Be watchful of when the berries on your blueberry bush turn uniformly blue and have a white outer coating. When they get to their blue stage, you may be tempted to pluck them off of the bush, but it is best to be patient for a few days longer. When fully ripened, you can cup your hand under a bunch of berries and wiggle your fingers around them slightly. They should drop off right into your hand. Keep berries dry and refrigerated and wash when ready to eat them.

Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and are low-calorie treats. Eat alone or pair them with yogurt, cereal, cream, and salads. Add them to smoothies, mix them into muffin or pancake batter, or make a jam or jelly.

Raspberry

Raspberries will ripen at different times throughout a couple of weeks, so you will have to pick what is ripe and leave some berries behind for further ripening and subsequent harvest. Select fruits that are deep in color and free from very white and light pink colors.

Pick your raspberries early in the morning and place them in a shallow bowl, so their delicate flesh does not get bruised. Allow berries to dry on a paper towel before storing them in the refrigerator, so they do not get mushy or moldy.

Raspberries are a heart-healthy berry that is low in fat and calories and high in fiber and essential vitamins. They are also excellent eaten on their own or added to cereal, yogurt, and mixed into smoothies. Preserve these sweet-tasting berries in jams, preserves, and jellies. They also make great additions to cakes and other desserts.

Strawberry

Timing the harvest of your strawberry crop is vital to getting the most out of your crop. Look for berries that are uniformly red and that have a shine to them. Strawberries taste their best when they are left to ripen fully on the vine, but the trick is to harvest when they are at their peak and not to get overripe. Overripened fruits attract pests and critters.

When harvesting, gently pinch off the stem and the berry. Handle strawberries with care, as they can bruise easily, which will invite premature rotting of your harvest. Rinse, dry, and store in the refrigerator.

Strawberries are delectable any way you choose to eat them. Sprinkle them in salads, add them to smoothies, pair them with ice cream, cheesecake, or eat them as a stand-alone dish. They are popular features in strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, strawberry jam, or any number of desserts.

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Black and pink mulberries sitting on a leaf.

Mulberry

Mulberries are these exceedingly sweet berries that grow on trees and ripen in stages. Mulberry trees can reach a height of 25 to 30 feet, which may make you wonder how you will harvest these beauteous fruits.

Look for elongated blackberries that are sweet to the taste during the warm months of June through August for harvesting. Mulberries can be handpicked off younger trees, but a ladder may be necessary if your berries cling to the branches of more mature branched trees. Another method requires the utilization of a grappling hook and a tarp. Lay a tarp out underneath the tree and spread all around the trunk. Take a grappling hook and reach up to individual tree branches and shake the branches to help release mulberries from the tree. Ripe berries will easily fall off and land on the tarp, where you can gather them.

Mulberry leaves can also be harvested and used in teas. Mulberries are a bit sweeter than blackberries and can be used in much the same way. They also make fabulous additions to yogurt, cream, cereal, salads, and desserts and can be savored all year long when used to make jams, syrups, and jellies.

Elderberry

Late summer is when you can expect to harvest the sweetly scented flowers and intense purple fruit of the elderberry bush. Harvested flowers when the entire cluster of blooms have opened up and clip the whole group. Berries should be harvested only when they are fully ripened. Ripe berries are easily distinguished by their plump, soft blackish-purple berries that grow in robust bunches. Snip off the stems of the clusters and discard any under-ripened berries, as they may be deemed poisonous.

Currants

Currant shrubs produce clusters of small, mid-summer in varieties of white, red, pink, or black, depending on the type. You can also rely on firmness and size to help determine their ripeness. The ideal berry is about 1/4 inch in size and yield with a bit of softness when it is squeezed gently. If you are looking to preserve or make currants into jam or jelly, you can pick them a little bit before they reach their peak of ripeness.

Currants are tiny berries that are intensely packed with nutrients. For small fruits, they are loaded with Vitamin C, potassium, phosphorous, iron, and protein. They are edible and can be enjoyed as dehydrated fruit, in jams, jellies, and wine.

Elderberries have become quite popular for their immune-boosting attributes. They are commonly made into a consumable syrup that is high in vitamins and low in fat and calories and is a symbol of health and wellness.

Close up of a gooseberry bush filled with gooseberries.

Gooseberry

Gooseberries come in colors of green, pink, yellow, red, and white, so it is essential to get familiar with the variety that you are growing and their ideal ripe hue. You can also rely on firmness and size to help determine their ripeness. The ideal berry is about ¾ inch in size and has a little bit of give when squeezed gently. If you are looking to preserve your gooseberries, you can pick them a little before they reach their ripeness peak.

Gooseberries are another berry variety that is high in fiber, low in calories, and loaded with antioxidants. They are known to pair up well with the taste of elderberries and are commonly cooked up in tarts, cakes, and other desserts.

Goji Berries

Goji berry shrubs ripen at varying times of the year based on the climate in which they are grown. Somewhere between the months of June and October, they will show their ripeness with vibrant red color and soft juice-filled berries. Take hold of the stem of the goji berry and hold the main stem of the shrub with your other hand to stabilize it. Then simply pluck the juicy goji berries off the bush to harvest them. However, if you miss the window when they are primed for picking, the small fruits will pop open and release their seeds.

Give your goji berries a thorough washing before consuming and never eat berries before they are truly ripe. Loaded with antioxidants and vitamin C, goji berries can be used to make juices and smoothies and can be dehydrated and eaten alone or in trail mixes. Goji berries also make exciting additions to culinary dishes like pasta and salads. They can even be used in baked treats.


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Black and pink mulberries sitting on a leaf. with text, "Best time to harvest berries"
Close up of a gooseberry bush filled with gooseberries with text, "Harvesting berries for flavor"

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