Summer is blueberry season, and because fresh, beautifully plump, and ripe blueberries are only available for a short time of the year, there’s one thing you don’t want to do: pick a bad batch of blueberries. That’s a surefire way to ruin your recipe, whether you’re blending up a batch of delicious, seasonal blueberry vinaigrette or tossing together a quick, weeknight blueberry caprese salad.
So — how can you ensure each and every berry lives up to your expectations, whether you’re picking a quart or two at your favorite u-pick farm or just scanning the produce section at the grocery store? Here’s what you need to know.
How to Pick the Best Blueberries from the Bush
If you’re going out to a farm to pick your own blueberries by hand (definitely a summer-fun activity that you’ll want to try if you never have), there are a few things to do to ensure you only come home with the best berries.
For starters, take your tips from the pros. Watch your local u-pick farms’ social media feeds, as they’ll be promoting ripe berries as soon as they’re available. This will help ensure you don’t head out to the fields either too early or too late.
Then, pay careful attention to each individual berry that you pick and place into your picking basket (baskets are better than bags for blueberry picking, as the bags can smush the berries). Look for berries that are firm, but that still give a little beneath your fingers (too firm means the berries aren’t ripe yet; too mushy and the berry has gone bad). Look for dark blue or purple berries and avoid berries that are still white or green.
A quick word of advice: If you can only find berries that are slightly blue or red, and no truly dark blue or purple berries, that’s fine. The blueberries might not be ready to eat just yet, but they’ll still ripen a little more at home.
How to Pick the Best Blueberries in the Store
Even if you’re just picking up some blueberries at the store, you’ll want to look for similar characteristics. Go for that dark blue or purple hued berry, and a slightly firm, mostly plump, feel.
If you spot any fuzzy, moldy or wrinkly berries, leave that package in the store. The berries have already gone bad. (If you do find a moldy berry only after you get home from the store or farm, toss the affected berry(ies) to prevent the mold from spreading.)
Storing Blueberries at Home for Fresher Berries, Longer
Once you have your blueberries at home, you can take a few extra steps to ensure your blueberries stay in pristine condition as long as possible.
Get your blueberries into the fridge as soon as you can, to extend their lifespan. Sunshine and heat shorten their lifespan. Pack your blueberries in breathable, airy containers.
Don’t wash your blueberries before storing them. Save the washing for right before you want to use the berries.
While your blueberries will last about a week in the fridge, you can freeze blueberries for that fresh taste and texture later on in the year, easily. Just pack the blueberries in freezer-safe containers (remember: no washing until you’re ready to eat!) and then enjoy your blueberries for up to 10 months, according to the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.