Caring for Your Freshly Picked Blueberries
This is blueberry season here in Michigan, and the “you-pick” farms are running at full steam. It is a great blessing to be able to buy blueberries all year at the grocery store, but there is nothing quite like berries that you’ve picked yourself at the peak of ripeness.
Once you bring that container of blueberries home, there are some things you can do to help keep your blueberries fresh and tasty. If you are like me, a good number of the berries are eaten in the first day or two. But we also try to pick enough to put away for future use.
When we bring blueberries home from the field, the first thing that I do is to spread them out on baking sheets to give them a chance to fully dry. This also makes it easier to pick out any unripe or damaged berries that made it into your bucket. This is also a good time to remove any stray stems or leaves.
Blueberries that are left in a container on the counter at room temperature will only last a day or two before going bad. Go ahead and put some in a bowl for snacking, but don’t put more there than you can consume in the next 24-36 hours. You can wash these ahead of time to make it easier for those who want to snack on them, but realize that washing them ahead will speed up the process of the berries breaking down. Dry them thoroughly in a colander before placing them in a bowl for snacking (or eat them from the colander).
Blueberries that are stored in the refrigerator will remain fresh for ten days to two weeks, especially if they are stored correctly. Because blueberries are fairly fragile, and moisture speeds up the process of their breaking down, it is best not to wash them before you store them in the refrigerator. There are many theories on the best way to store blueberries in the refrigerator, but I have found that a container that allows air flow and that has a “drain” at the bottom works best. There are several companies that make reasonably priced containers that are perfect for this.
We also freeze a good number of the berries we pick for use all year long. After letting the berries fully dry, I place them in one gallon freezer bags (comfortably full, not stuffed) and freeze them without washing them. You need to remember to wash them before you use them, but I find this helps them to last longer. Blueberries frozen within a day of picking will last for 10 months to 1 year in the freezer.
I hope you enjoy blueberries as much as Karen and I do. If you have a favorite blueberry recipe, send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to try it out and share it with our other readers.