Berry picking is a great way for you to spend time with your family. Not only do you get fresh air and exercise, but kids learn how their food is grown. They can also help cook and preserve your harvest.
The best part is that berries are delicious and also very good for you. Unsweetened berries are low in calories and high in antioxidants, plus they help boost your immune system.
You can find “u-pick” berry farms in all three of Tennessee’s regions. Luckily, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture makes it easy to locate berry farms throughout the state. You might also check with growers at your local farmers market to find smaller operations in your area.
Determine Harvest Time
Berries ripen at different times. Strawberries are generally in season for three to four weeks beginning in May. Blueberries and blackberries are usually ready sometime in June, and the harvest can go for two to six weeks. Raspberries ripen in August in most areas of Tennessee. Always check with the farm to find out if the berries you’re craving are ready to pick.
Know Before You Go
Many “u-pick” farms have set hours for guests to go picking. Most farms also provide containers for their pickers, and price their goods by the pound. Remember, some farms accept credit cards but many do not. Other farms that aren’t staffed by employees may operate on an “honor” system, allowing customers to pick at their convenience and leave cash for the berries they take. Before you go, make sure you know how the farm operates so you can be prepared.
Berry picking can be labor-intensive, so don’t forget to wear comfortable clothing and closed-toed shoes. You’ll also want to bring a hat, sunscreen and insect repellent to protect your skin.
Discover more activities for your family to enjoy in Tennessee.
Tips for Proper Picking
Once you’re ready to pick, remember these tips:
- Be careful not to pile strawberries more than five inches deep in a container. Over time, your basket can become surprisingly heavy.
- Part leaves to find berries that are ready to pick.
- Avoid green berries, which aren’t yet ready for eating and won’t ripen after picking. Look for firm, brightly colored berries.
- Go berry picking on cooler days or early in the morning to ensure the fruit lasts as long as possible. Berries picked during the heat of the day don’t keep as well.
- Keep picked berries in a cool, dark place. Never leave them in a hot car or in direct sunlight.
Storing Berries the Right Way
You can use fresh berries in your favorite recipes right away or preserve them so they last. All types of berries can be frozen to use in recipes year round.
To start the freezing process, wash and lay the berries in a single layer on a baking sheet. Once the berries have hardened, transfer them to a plastic bag or similar closed container.