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Warning: Berry puns ahead!

Stained fingers, fun and sun — there’s lots to love about the annual trip to the berry patch, and if these are the reasons you return year after year, berry well.

But if you want to up your game and pick a fresh, ripe haul that lasts, it’s time to stop making these berry common mistakes.

MISTAKE #1: YOU GET GREEDY

Think you’ll prove your picking prowess by stuffing your bucket with the most berries? Think again! Do pick as many as you can, just don’t put them all in the same pail. Divide your raspberry, blackberry and strawberry hauls into shallow containers to prevent the bottom berries from bruising. And if you’re determined to be a berry patch hotshot, stick to blueberries, which hold their shape in large vessels.

MISTAKE #2: YOU PICK ALL THE BERRIES

Bananas, avocados, peaches and plums continue to ripen after harvesting, but berries are a done deal once picked, so only pluck the ripe ones. Blueberries are ripe when they’re fully blue — avoid berries with red, green or white colouration. Strawberries should be firm and red, and raspberries and blackberries are ready when they’re easily plucked; if you have to pull hard, move on.

MISTAKE 3: YOU PICK ONLY THE BIGGEST BERRIES

Bigger berry equals bigger flavour, right? Not necessarily. Wild blueberries are about a third the size of their cultivated cousins, but are sweeter and contain more antioxidants. Don’t get us wrong — cultivated blueberries are still tasty and healthful, but ripeness, not size, is the best sign of good flavour.

MISTAKE #4: YOU REFRIGERATE YOUR BERRIES

Berries taste best at room temperature, but they spoil fast. Refrigerating seems like a natural solution, but it robs them of precious flavour. Instead, drop your crop in a 1-part vinegar and 3-part water solution to kill bacteria and mould, then rinse well to remove vinegar flavour. Pat the berries dry and store at room temperature with new paper towel in a container that allows airflow. This method will extend shelf life by a few days; if you don’t plan to eat your berries within that time, wash, dry and freeze them instead.

Still not sure what to do with all those berries? We’ve got several fresh blueberry ideas to get you started.

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