8 Tips for Blueberry Picking

Last weekend, I took a drive to the Indiana/Michigan border along the southern tip of Lake Michigan in search of blueberries. This is serious fruit country. In addition to 15 pounds of blueberries, I picked up a few tips.
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  1. Call ahead – Make sure the farm you plan to visit has blueberries (or whatever fruit you're looking for) available for picking. If you call multiple farms, you can also compare prices.
  2. Protect yourself – You're going to be standing out in the sun for a few hours, so bring water and wear a hat, plenty of sunscreen and clothes that you don't mind getting a little stained with blueberry juice.
  3. BYOB – Bring your own bucket. Most farms will provide buckets for picking, but you'll want your own for transporting your berries home. It's also handy to have a smaller bucket for picking and a larger bucket to empty it into when it gets too heavy.
  4. BYOB2 – Bring your own belt. This advice came from my mom, and not having picked blueberries since I was very young, I thought it sounded a little strange. As I should have known, it was very good advice. Attaching your picking bucket to your belt keeps it in a convenient spot and lets you easily pick with both hands. Some farms will provide rope for this same purpose, but I think a belt is probably a little more comfortable.
  5. Stay put – Find a bush with plenty of ripe berries and stick with it until you've picked it clean. You'll save more energy for picking if you're not moving around a lot, and you'll leave other bushes in better condition for your fellow pickers.
  6. Get in there – Don't just pick the berries from the very front of the bush. I found the best clusters of plump, ripe berries on the undersides of branches.
  7. Be gentle – I found the best way to pick the berries was to roll the berries between my thumb and the palm of my hand, and the ripe ones would easily fall off.
  8. Ask about "jam berries" – The farm I visited offered a discount on already picked berries that were just beginning to go soft, but were still in good condition for perserves and baked goods. I bought 5 pounds of jam berries, and honestly, I could barely tell the difference between those and the ones I'd just picked.
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Related: Blueberry Lavender Cream Pie

(Images: Joanna Miller)

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