School is out! So, what can we do as a family this summer? Berry picking has always been one of my favorite summertime activities. Everyone in the family can pick and everyone can enjoy this delicious healthy fruit.
No matter your age or size, berry picking is for everyone. I have such wonderful memories of picking berries with family and friends. We picked a few, ate a few and threw a few; all in good fun.
To locate a u-pick-em, check the newspapers and community boards for u-pick-ems in your area. Many local u-pick-ems are listed online. Do a google search for MarketMaker, Local Harvest or Pick Your Own; these websites are free to producers and many producers list their farms on the site.
In northwest Louisiana, Hillcrest Blueberry Farm is the largest blueberry farm in all of Louisiana! Located in DeSoto Parish just a mile south of Gloster, they are a family owned farm specializing in fresh fruit sales. They have 139 acres of blueberries and two acres of blackberries.
Hillcrest Blueberry Farm is a certified agritourism business. Certified agritourism businesses in the State of Louisiana complete a plan of operation listing the hazards on their farms and how they will mitigate those hazards; only farms whose plans have been approved by the Louisiana Department of Ag and Forestry are listed as a certified agritourism business.
Below are a few tips:
- Before you go, call ahead to find out if you need to bring a bucket or other container to place your berries in after picking. Some u-pick-ems provide their own containers.
- Blueberries grow on bushes. When you are ready to pick, hold your bucket under a bunch of berries; blueberries hang in clusters on bushes; so hold the bucket in one hand and with your free hand cup a ripe bunch and gently rub them with your fingers. The ripe berries will fall into the bucket. If this is your first berry picking trip expect to pick one gallon in an hour’s time if you are not interrupted.
- Select only plump, full berries that are light gray-blue in color. If you see red, that’s the signal that the berry is not quite ripe; so leave that one on the bush. Blueberries that are picked white or green will not ripen after picked so pick only the light gray-blue ones. Berries that have a little red and that are purple or blue will ripen after picked if left at room temperature.
- Once home, decide on how you will eat or store your berries. Berries are warm when they are plucked from the bush, so when you arrive home allow the berries to come to room temperature before placing in a sealed bag or container with a lid. It is recommended to NOT WASH the blueberries until you are ready to use them. So, if you want to store them in the freezer, store them unwashed. If you have picked just enough for eating, they will last 10-14 days in the refrigerator. From the refrigerator, wash only before eating or using in preparation.