By Matt Davy
Picking blueberries is fun and easy to do, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some tricks of the trade worth following. Here are my 9 best tips for PYO blueberries.
- Call ahead – Picking blueberries is often weather dependent both from a picker and farm’s perspective. Weather up the coast can often be fine when it’s pouring in Wellington where I live. But it does pay to call ahead and check if they’re open and it doesn’t hurt to compare prices.
- Bring a hat – Make sure to stay sun smart as you’re likely to be standing out in the sun for a few hours. Pack a sun hat, bottled water and sunscreen.
- They’re called blueberries, so pick the blue ones – If you’re fussy like me, look under the fruit and try not to pick the ones which are red underneath. The fruit that are blue all over are the best and sweetest ones. It’s okay to eat a few to make sure they’ll sweet. Often the supermarket blueberries are picked green because of the time it takes to travel from the farm to your pantry.
- Thumbs up! – 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.
- Spray free or not? – It’s unusual for certified organic blueberry farms to allow the public pick your own. Organic requires a specific certification process that is beyond most small local PYO blueberry farms. Do look out for spray free (or farms that only use organic fertilisers) as they pretty much just as good as organic and a much better for you and not usually that much more price-wise.
- 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.
- Get ’em behind – 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.
- Not much wrong with second best – The blueberry farm in Levin I visited offered a discount on already picked berries that were just beginning to go soft, but were still in good condition for preserves and baked goods. I bought 3 kgs of jam berries for $35 compared to $3.50 for a 125gm punnet at New World nearby. They are ideal to freeze for baking and adding to smoothies. I could barely tell the difference between those and the ones I’d just picked.
- Take a look around the area – Life these days is too rushed. So make a day of it. Blueberry farms usually require a drive from the city. Take the opportunity to see some of the local sights and walks. It’s the best value entertainment you can enjoy and great to get your kids off their smart phones for a few hours!