Blueberry season has finally arrived and Pick-Your-Own (PYO) farms across the state are open for picking. I love fresh, local blueberries, so I was thrilled to wake up on a recent Sunday morning with comfortable temperatures in the high-70s. Mother Nature was giving my heat-sensitive kids at least 30 minutes to pick before they started melting into a sweaty, cranky chorus of “Carry meeeeee!!!!” and “Can we get some ice cream?” So the family headed to Butler’s Orchard for a morning of blueberry-picking.
I had dreams of coming home with quarts of blueberries to eat and freeze. I even had plans to use my berries in this blueberry French toast bake. But then, my kids saw this:
So, my plans to come home with insane amounts of blueberries resulted in lots of happy, smiley kids, but no blueberries (or pictures of blueberry picking for this post). #momwin #pyofail
If you are fortunate enough to actually reach the blueberry fields of your local PYO farm, look for plump and firm berries with a dusty-blue color. Jon Traunfeld, Director of the University of Maryland Extension Home and Garden Information Center, also warns against picking berries with a reddish tinge, “These berries are under-ripe and they will not improve after picking.”
And if you get home with as many berries as I had hoped to pick, make sure to freeze some. Karen Basinger, our Extension Educator in Howard County, says that “Freezing will retain more of the original flavor, color, texture and nutritional value of fruits than any other home food preservation method.” Freezing also happens to be the easiest way to preserve fruits and they can last up to a year in the freezer if processed correctly.
To get the best end-product, first discard soft, under-ripe or defective berries, and remove any stems. You do not need to wash the berries, as that can cause tougher skin. Lay the (completely dry) berries on a parchment lined cookie sheet, leaving space between them. Place the cookie sheet into the freezer. Once the berries are firm, you can remove the pan and store all the berries in a freezer container or bag. Make sure to mark the container with the type of berry and the date frozen. And don’t forget to wash the berries before using them.
If you want to savor more of summer’s bounty, we have Educators who will teach you how to safely jam or jelly your berries, or preserve any other harvested goodies. Check out our calendar of workshops!