If you lived anywhere near Mount Vernon in Ohio several decades ago, you knew my grandparents’ farm: the McConnell Berry Farm. The incredible U-pick strawberries and U-pick blueberries operation was my favorite place in the world as a kid – and not just because my awesome grandparents lived there. I was obsessed with blueberries. As a small child, I always had an allergic reaction to fresh blueberries, but I didn’t care. I’d sneak off the half-mile alone, despite being only four, and plunge myself into purple-stained -finger heaven, not caring how sick it made me!
Thankfully, I’ve outgrown that allergy to the juicy fruit and now relish the wonders of blueberries as an adult who’s had years of experience exploring blueberry patches and plucking fruit from my grandparents’ and uncles’ blueberry farm.
If you share even the tiniest bit of passion for blueberries in comparison to mine, you’ll appreciate this how-to on harvesting blueberries from your blueberry plants or nearby U-pick blueberries farms.
What You’ll Need For Harvesting Blueberries
When it comes to this luscious fruit and blueberry picking, there’s very little in the way of tools required for harvesting.
- A bucket, harvest apron, or similar receptacle for the berries
- Your hands (no gloves!)
- Or a metal fruit harvesting comb
It’s important to note that you should not use gloves when harvesting blueberries. They’re tender and a little delicate, meaning that gloves could keep you from removing them are as carefully as needed.
Secondly, as you’ll note below, there’s a debate between hand-harvesting and mechanical harvesting. The choice is completely up to you, so you may or may not require the harvesting comb.
How to Harvest Blueberries
Thankfully, there’s no huge secret to harvesting blueberry bushes, no matter what types of blueberries you’re growing. When they’re ripe, they fall right off in your hands! Gently use your thumb to roll the berry off the stem into the palm of your hand. Place them carefully in your bucket or harvesting bag and move onto the next berries. That’s it!
If you’re using a mechanical blueberry picker, the process is similar. Bend at the knees to avoid straining your back, then lower the rake gently into the blueberry bush with the prongs tilted upward. Pull the rake through the branches, letting the tines grab the clusters and gently remove the berries. No force should be used in this, though, as that will bruise berries. Empty the rake gently into your berry bucket and keep going. You’ll be done clearing that berry patch in no time.
When to Harvest Blueberries
Harvesting your blueberry bushes is a pretty simple process. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many amazing U-pick berry farms out there!
Harvest time is typically May through mid-August, depending on the types of blueberries you’re growing and where you’re doing the berry picking.
Make sure the berries are ripe before you pick them. Ripe, fresh fruit will fall right off into your hand or basket at contact with your hands or berry picker tools.
How Do You Know When Blueberries Are Ripe?
When you think it’s time to harvest your blueberries, it might be a little tricky for newbies to know when to pluck those juicy berries from the bush. Thankfully, the coloration on most varieties is pretty easy to tell on: ripe blueberries are plump and deep blue. There will also be a light “dusting” of gray on the surface of the berries. The “dust” look confirms the readiness. Also, typically, larger berries are the ones ready to pick.
Berries that still have a hint of red or pink or are firm to the touch aren’t ready yet and need anywhere from a few days to a week or more. If you pick them too soon, they’ll be tart. And unlike common myth, they won’t ripen after plucking from the bush.
What’s the Best Time of Day to Pick Blueberries?
Simply put, blueberries should be harvested in the morning. The earlier, the better. Look for the ripe berries, already dark blue and easily come off in your hands. You want to pick them before it starts to heat up outside, ideally, while there’s still some dew on the grass. Blueberries are the sweetest at this time of day.
Handpicking Versus Mechanical Picking Blueberries
I would be remiss if I neglected to discuss handpicking versus mechanical harvesting.
If you’ve only got a bush or two in your blueberry patch, you probably don’t need to get a blueberry harvester and might enjoy the feeling of handpicking your berries. I prefer the natural feeling of this method, but I also don’t have acres of blueberries that would take me way too long to harvest by hand.
Even if you’re harvesting by hand, you’ll need a bucket or satchel, though. I find the type (known as a harvesting apron) that tie at the waist are the best choice for freeing up your hands to do more picking without having to bend over a lot. You can use just about any solid-bottomed item as your blueberry container, though.
UpBloom Harvesting Apron
UpBloom harvesting apron for easy collection of berries, veggies, and eggs
For those with more than a couple of bushes, some harvesting tools would be a good investment. Easily the most effective tool for this is the wire rake comb.
Ivique Berry Picker with Metal Comb
Berry picker for easy harvesting of blueberries and other small berries
The Best Berries Ever
I know I’m biased, but blueberry picking from your own blueberry plants are seriously the best thing ever. They’re delicious, easy to harvest, and super easy to prepare. No pitting, no cutting, no cooking required! Be sure to use the best tools, take your time, and enjoy the process.
There’s nothing quite so beautiful and natural as plucking your fruit from the bush, taking it indoors, and whipping up an entirely delicious something or other for dinner from a delectable blueberry recipe. Enjoy your harvest!