Stuffing yourself with berries is easily one of summer's greatest pleasures. I mean, it's pretty much your duty to fill up until you're tired of them because you'll have to wait a whole year until you're able to get your hands on fresh summer berries again.
That means it's pretty important to buy the best berries you can find — especially since they usually don't come cheap, even when they're at the peak of season.
If the berries you're about to buy show signs of one or more of the following, you should skip them and pick up another basket.
1. They're blemished or bruised.
When berries are blemished or bruised, it could be a sign that they're on their way to being overripe. If you're planning on turning the berries into jam, these less-than-perfect berries are actually a good option, but if you want to simply enjoy them on their own, you should move on.
2. The container they're in is wet or stained.
That's probably a sign of overripe, mushy berries in the bottom of the basket. Since you can't dig through the basket to find out, checking the bottom and sides of the container is a good indicator. Typically there's a moldy berry in a container sporting these signs. Your best bet is to pick up a new carton.
3. The berries themselves are wet.
If the berries are too damp, it could lead to premature molding. It's best that the berries haven't been washed before you buy them. That way they'll be dry and mold-free, and you'll be able to wash them yourself before you're ready to eat them. This is especially true for blueberries or any other berry with a natural waxy coating.
4. They aren't firm or don't hold their shape.
Again, this is a sign of overripeness. Strawberries and blueberries should be firm, with a slight give to them, while raspberries and blackberries should hold their oblong shape.
5. Their color is dull and the smell is off.
If blackberries are dull, it could be a sign that they're old. Instead, they should be rich in color and shiny. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries should also have a vibrant hue. If they're pale, they could be underripe; if they are darker than usual, it's a sign that they're overripe.
One last thing to do is give your berries a sniff. Nothing is sweeter than a perfectly ripe strawberry. If the berries have gone past ripe, they begin to take on a slightly fermented smell.
Do you have any tips or tricks for picking a good basket of berries at the grocery or farmers market?