How to Pick the Best Blackberries

Eating fragrant, juicy blackberries is a rite of summertime. Here's how to pick blackberries, whether you're at the store or a U-pick farm.

When I was a kid growing up in the country, getting ready to pick wild native blackberries always meant pulling on a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, regardless of how hot the day was. No matter how carefully we prepared, how delicately we maneuvered between arching canes and how gingerly we plucked the berries, those vines always seemed to reach out and scratch. But that didn’t keep us from the task, since these fragrant, intensely flavorful berries, tumbled into a Blueberry Blackberry Rustic Tart or heaped atop ice cream, were a delicious reward!

How to Pick Blackberries at a Farm

These days, a wide variety of commercially grown blackberries are thornless, making a blackberry expedition to a U-pick farm an enjoyable excursion in every sense.

Once you pick a blackberry, it doesn’t ripen or change in flavor. Because of this, it’s helpful to know what to look for. Perfectly ripe blackberries are deep purple/eggplant color or black (depending on variety). They should be plump, filled out and shiny. Pass up berries that are dull, shriveled, moldy, unripe (with red bits) or overripe (squishing when you pick them).

There’s one additional caveat: Never pick roadside blackberries: They may contain contamination from car emissions or herbicides.

How to Choose Blackberries at the Store

To buy perfectly ripe—but not overripe—blackberries at the store, look for berries that are plump, firm and shiny.

How to Store Fresh Blackberries

Blackberries are highly perishable, so only leave them on the counter if you’re planning on eating them that day. You don’t want to store the fruit at room temp for more than a few hours; it’s one of the most common berry mistakes that people make.

To refrigerate the blackberries, use a breathable container such as an empty clamshell with a paper towel on the bottom. Any shallow container will work well, though. Just be sure not to put a lid on it or seal the container with plastic wrap.

Before using, rinse the berries gently in a colander and then tip them onto a paper towel-lined sheet pan and tumble slightly to shake off some of the water.

How to Freeze Blackberries

Frozen blackberries work well in this Blackberry Crisp with a crunchy streusel topping, as well as jams, smoothies and pies. (Though if you’re using frozen berries in a pie, you’ll need to thaw them and drain the extra juice before proceeding.)

To freeze blackberries, rinse and gently dry the berries on paper towels, then roll them onto a baking sheet, taking care not to crowd them. Pop them into the freezer and let them chill for 4-6 hours before pouring the frozen berries into a labeled zip-close bag and re-freezing. They should be good for up to a year.

Blackberry Recipes Bursting with Flavor
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Leslie Forsberg
Leslie Forsberg is a freelance writer living in Seattle who specializes in food, travel and lifestyles. A former magazine editor, Leslie has contributed to publications ranging from AAA magazines to Country magazine, Sunset to inflight magazines, for 20 years. She enjoys writing about Pacific Northwest foods, Scandinavian foods, baking and the intersection of farmers and consumers. Leslie is a 3-time Society of Professional Journalists award winner for Best Travel Writing. She is the author of two books: Michelin Green Guide: Pacific Northwest and Wanderlust & Lipstick: Traveling with Kids.