How to Pick the Best Blueberries

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This quick primer explains how to pick blueberries—plus gardener's tips for washing, storing and freezing blueberries.

For me, picking blueberries at a U-pick farm is one of the greatest joys of summer. It means a family excursion to the same farm we’ve been visiting for years! It’s easy to recruit helpers since picking blueberries is easy and fun, and we always have a friendly competition to see who picks the most. My daughter is the chief berry picker in our household—likely because she has the amazing discipline to not sample them as she goes. I can’t resist their sweet appeal, which seems to me a fine prize for coming in second or third. Then, when we get home, a Cape Cod Blueberry Pie is the first dessert out of the oven.

How to Pick Blueberries at a Farm

There are lots of different varieties of blueberries that ripen at different times, which makes it easy to hit the blueberry-picking harvest window. Picking blueberries is easier than picking many berries, since you don’t have to stoop over to pick them, and the berries aren’t hidden behind leaves. It’s also easy to spot ripe berries. They are solid blue and firm. Blueberries do not ripen further once picked (unlike these fruits that do continue to ripen), so avoid those with white or green on them, and discard berries that are soft and overripe.

How to Pick Blueberries at the Grocery Store

While blueberries at the store are rarely underripe, they can be overripe—which happens when they are picked and then stored for too long. Look for berries that are plump, with no wrinkled or sunken parts. Be sure to inspect all sides if they’re in a clear clamshell container.

How to Store Fresh Blueberries

Blueberries are more durable than other berries, and can last for 10 to 14 days if stored properly. Rinse them in a colander when you bring them home and remove any stems, then dry them on a sheet pan with paper towels to absorb the water. (You can also wash berries in a vinegar and water solution.) Put the blueberries in a container that can breathe, like this produce keeper, and refrigerate. If you’ve had them for more than a week, pick through the blueberries to find any soft, overripe fruit before using.

To keep the fruit as fresh as possible, don’t make any of these berry mistakes.

How to Freeze Blueberries

Blueberries freeze really well and are great to have on hand for all kinds of blueberry dessert recipes. Rinse and dry the blueberries on paper towels on a sheet pan, then place the pan in the freezer for 4-6 hours. Once frozen, pour the berries into a zip-close bag, label and re-freeze. They should be good for up to a year. You can enjoy the taste of summer months later in this Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart!

Recipes to Make with Fresh Blueberries
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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.