Berry Good Tips for Choosing and Storing Local Berries
Call before visiting any farm to get current hours of operation, because days and hours of operation will depend on the weather, numbers of pickers and other variables. Ask whether you should bring your own containers, and find out which varieties are grown there. When you call the grower, you can also get price information for strawberries that are self-picked as opposed to pre-picked by the grower, or prices for various size containers. Berries typically are sold by the pound. A quart equals 1 1/2 pounds of fresh berries. If you use your own containers, remember that heaping berries more than 5 inches deep will bruise the lower berries. Plastic dishpans, metal oven pans with 3” tall sides and large pots are good choices.
- All berries have some common traits. They do not ripen any further once they’ve been picked. For this reason, it’s important to pick berries that are already fully ripe. Berries that practically fall off the stem, are plump, firm, taste sweet and have no unripe areas are ready to pick.
- Avoid placing the picked berries in the sunlight any longer than necessary. It is better to put them in the shade of a tree or shed than in the car trunk or on the car seat. Cool them as soon as possible after picking.
- Picking an already ripe fruit also means they need to be used fairly quickly, within three or four days if they are to be used fresh. During the time that berries wait to be used, they need to be refrigerated and remain unwashed. Leave caps and stems on. Wash, remove caps and cut away undesirable spots just before use.
- To freeze berries, wash them with a gentle rinsing to prevent bruising, then pat dry. At that point, place the berries in a single layer on a baking sheet, then place the sheet in the freezer. Ideally, the berries would not touch each other on the pan. Once frozen, the berries will roll off into a freezer bag, where they can remain until needed.
- To maximize enjoyment of berry picking as a family outing, bring something to drink and a few snacks; you'd be surprised how you can work up a thirst and appetite in the springtime sun. And don't forget hats and sunscreen. Bugs usually aren't a problem, but some insect repellent might be good to bring along if it has been rainy.