Summer brings berry picking season.  There are multiple reasons to pick your own berries.  First, it’s an excellent way to spend more time outside to breathe fresh country air and vitamin D.  Second, it can be a way to spend quality time with a friend or family member.  Third, you are getting fresh berries.  Fourth, you are often saving money.  While the cost per pound can seem expensive, remember that you are buying maybe 1/4 of a pound of berries in those small containers at the store.  You are also paying several middle men.  Fifth, you are supporting a local family business by going berry picking.

Food tastes best when it is eaten in season.  The good news is that you can get that fresh produce and eat as much as you can during the time that it is in season and/or preserve it to eat it when it is not in season.

Whatever you choose to do with your berries, here are a few tips (from my personal experience) regarding berry picking.

1. Call before going to make sure there are berries that day.

Unless there is an email or other communication that lets you know the availability, you do not want to arrive at the farm only to discover that all the berries have already been picked.

2. Arrive as early as possible.

If the berry picking begins at 7 am, you want to be there no later than 7:15 to ensure a good parking spot and a premium spot for picking berries.  You will definitely want to go to bed early the night before so that you can wake up early too.

3. Wear your sunscreen.

Unless you plan to be outside for just 15-30 minutes, sunscreen is an excellent idea, especially if this will be your first time out in the sun for an extended period of time.  If you do forget your sunscreen, you can find instructions for battling your sunburn here.

4. Be prepared to combat mosquitoes and other bugs.

While picking berries can be a grand adventure, it will turn into a painful adventure quickly if you return home with 20 mosquito bites. Go here to learn how to keep mosquitoes away.

5. Bring rain gear just in case.

You do not want to end your berry picking early in case there is rain. You also want to avoid getting soaked and therefore risking illness.

Bring a poncho or at least a light coat with a hood.

6. Don’t eat too many berries.

While most places encourage you to eat as you pick, eating too many unwashed berries can give you a stomachache!

7. Wear clothing with pockets.

You will most likely want to leave your purse in the car, but you will want to keep your car keys and a form of payment with you to avoid having return to your car in order to pay for your berries. You may also want to keep your phone on you to take a few pictures.

8. Know which berries to pick and which ones to leave.

Not all the berries on each bush or plant are mean to be picked.  Strawberries that are ripe when you pick them will be over-ripe when you get home.

If you are not sure, always ask someone at the berry farm.

9. Be ready to refrigerate or process your berries immediately when you arrive at home.

After you pick berries is not the time to go out for lunch or visit a friend for two hours.  You will want to get your berries home right away to process them in order to avoid waste.

Raspberries spoil quickly. Strawberries will need to be hulled before you process them. Blueberries are the easiest berries to process because they do not spoil quickly and are very easy to wash.

You can make smoothies, desserts, fruit salads, and jams with your berries.

What are your best berry picking tips? What are your favorite berries to pick?

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