At Highland Garden House we have a few blueberry bushes; they are a nice landscape shrub and provide some fresh blueberries in July and August for our breakfast guests, and enough to freeze for winter use.
This post is not about selecting or growing blueberries, it is about how to tell when they are ready to pick! In our part of the country, our Skagit Valley farmers grow blueberries on a large commercial scale. Many of the berries are planted in rows in order to be picked by machine. This may sound foreign, but the blueberry is pretty tough, is easily knocked off the bush when ripe, is round, so rolls down a fabric slope as the leaves and other non-round material is sorted off. All this is done in the field as the machine straddles the row with one to three ‘operators.’ The picked berries are dumped into flats and washed and sorted a few more times before packaging. They are not huge machines but have been built to do this one thing.
At home you pick your berries by hand. I like to hold the clusters still with my left hand and pick and hold the picked berries in my right. But, on to the ripeness indicator.
Blueberries are ripe when they are dark blue and come away from the cluster branch easily. Well, this is all subjective. You taste the picked ones and they are pretty nice.
This is the ‘real’ blueberry ripeness test:
Pick a double handful that you think are ripe. Put the berries in a bowl of water. Some will float and some will sink. The sinkers are fully ripe, the floaters are not quite ripe, even if they all are the same color and appeared to be ripe as your were picking.
Now you can scoop the floaters off separately from the sinkers, these are slightly under ripe, still taste good, but will last longer in the fridge. Then scoop the sinkers out, use these first, or maybe these are the ones that get frozen! (Place washed and sorted blueberries on sheet pans. Place in freezer. When frozen, pack in Zip Lock bags, forcing the excess air out. Back into freezer. Don’t forget to date them!)
You can do this same test when you buy blueberries, you will be washing them anyway: The sinkers are to be used first, the floaters will keep up to 2 weeks in fridge.
’til next time,
Highland Garden House B & B
501 E. Highland Ave.
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
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