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Berry Harvest Quick Tips

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Summer berry harvestBerries taste their absolute best when left to ripen on the plant, then picked and eaten immediately.

Sweetness, aroma, and flavor determine ripeness; berries can reach their peak in a day or two once they begin to mature. Visit plants every day once fruit begins to deepen in color. Taste and smell to decide when to start picking.

When it’s time to pick, leave two hands free for picking blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries; tie a small basket or bucket to your waist to move quickly through the berry bushes.

Sit down on the job when you pick strawberries; a low, three-legged stool is ideal for strawberry picking. Rig the stool so that it ties around your waist with a belt to make sitting and moving along easy.

Berries are most flavorful picked in the morning when they are still plump with the moisture and sugars drawn up into the fruit the day before.

Here are berry harvesting quick tips:


  • Harvest from mid-summer to early-fall depending upon variety.
  • Ready to pick when they are still firm, plump, and shiny black.
  • Bees will visit when fruit is sweet, ripe, and ready to be plucked from the vine.
  • Will pull away easily from the vine when ripe.
  • Core or plug will remain in the fruit (unlike raspberries); it will be soft and almost undetectable.
  • Pick in morning before it gets too hot and berries dry.
  • Pick regularly to harvest fruit at its peak.
  • Store in the refrigerator for a few days or in the freezer for later use.

Black currantsBlack currants:

  • Harvest from mid- to late-summer.
  • Pick when plump and shiny blue-black.
  • Traditional varieties will ripen from the top of the “strig” down; many hybrid varieties ripen all at once.
  • Store in the refrigerator for a few days or freeze.


  • Harvest from late spring to late summer depending upon variety.
  • Ripen and pick over several weeks, not all at the same time.
  • Best when the berries develop a powdery white bloom on their skin, a few days after they turn blue.
  • A ripe blueberry will pull away with the slightest tug of your finger and thumb leaving the stalk behind.
  • Full production comes when the bush is about 6 years old.
  • Blueberries will keep a week in the refrigerator or wash, dry thoroughly, and freeze in a plastic bag or container.


  • Harvest from early- to late-summer depending upon variety.
  • Ripe berries will be slightly soft.
  • Leave a short length of stalk attached to each berry at harvest to prevent skins from tearing.
  • Pick alternating berries from bush allowing those left behind to grow larger as the crop is thinned.
  • Visit each bush two or three times to complete the harvest.
  • Will keep in the refrigerator for ten days or freeze.


  • Harvest summer into mid-fall depending upon variety.
  • Berries on each bush will ripen over a 2 week period; pick every couple of days.
  • Raspberries deepen from bright red to dark red as they ripen.
  • Ripe berries will pull from the vine easily; core or plug will remain behind on the bush (unlike blackberries).
  • Harvest berries on a sunny day when berries are dry.
  • Don’t wash raspberries; it makes them soggy.
  • Will keep in refrigerator for about five days; to freeze place raspberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet and set in freezer; when frozen, place into airtight bags.
Red currantsRed Currants:
  • Harvest mid-summer to late summer depending upon variety.
  • Fruit deepens in color as it ripens.
  • Fruit does not ripen all at once; visit plant several times to pick.
  • Easiest to cut away entire trusses or “strigs” when possible.
  • Will keep in refrigerator a few days; freeze for long keeping.


  • Harvest late spring to early fall depending upon variety; fruit is ready for harvest 4 to 6 weeks after blossoming.
  • Harvest only fully red, ripe berries before they get soft; pick every other days—they ripen quickly; harvest lasts up to 3 weeks.
  • Pick in the morning before the sun dries them.
  • Cut from the stem; do not pull the berry.
  • Unwashed berries will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days; freeze whole strawberries for up to 2 months.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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