Blueberries are among the elite few crops considered a superfood.
Not only do they taste heavenly, but they also contain a healthy amount of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants.
If you’re lucky to have the right growing conditions for blueberry bushes, you can grow these fruits in your garden.
When to harvest blueberries? Blueberries are ready for harvesting between the months of June and August. Wait until the cluster of berries turns a darker shade of blue before picking. Around this time, the fruits should snap off effortlessly and fall into your hand.
How Do You Know When Your Blueberries Are Ready to Harvest?
Blueberry shrubs take their sweet time to grow and will reach full size in about eight to 10 years.
Don’t expect much harvest from the first two to three years, which is when the plants are still getting established.
In fact, you might have to wait until year five before you can have a big yield.
If you keep them healthy and happy year in and year out, your blueberry plants can survive for longer than 50 years.
Each mature blueberry plant can produce anywhere from five to 10 pounds of sweet fruits every summer.
That said, you must learn what signs to watch out for to ensure they are ready for picking.
Wait for summer.
While blueberry bushes do not require much care, only the most patient gardeners have the guts to wait for them to produce fruits.
And once they do, they will continue bringing you baskets after baskets of fruits every summer.
While the summer months are the best time to pick them, some breeds do not ripen until early fall.
This means if you plant two or more varieties alongside each other, you will have a continuous supply for months.
Planting different varieties will also ensure successful breeding.
Check the fruits’ color.
Color is a reliable indicator of whether or not blueberries are ready for picking.
The fruits start out as green and then turn pink before turning blue. However, even when they appear blue, it doesn’t mean they are mature enough for harvest.
Wait a few more days until the fruits become more well-rounded and indigo in color.
The wait can take 55 to 135 days after the plants bloom, depending on the variety of blueberries you’re growing.
What Happens if You Don’t Harvest Blueberries?
Eating blueberries helps promote and maintain healthy bones as well as lower blood pressure.
However, you can only enjoy these benefits if you harvest them at the right time. Here’s what will happen if you don’t.
The fruits will lose their sweetness.
Generally, you can start picking blueberries once they are a bluish-gray color.
The longer blueberries stay on the plant, the sweeter they become. What happens if you leave them on the plant too long?
Unripe blueberries taste sour and won’t be as soft as the ripe ones.
On the other hand, not harvesting when they are fully mature heightens the risk of the fruits losing their sweet flavor.
They will turn mushy.
Overripe blueberries are not only sour but also mushy. You might also notice bruising or another kind of blemish on their skin.
That said, they likely aren’t rotten yet, so you can still use them and turn them into preserves or jams.
How To Harvest Blueberries
You’ve waited long enough for this, and finally, you can now enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Harvesting blueberries doesn’t require special skills or fancy tools. Here’s what you should do:
Step 1: Plan your harvest.
Once you’re sure they are ripe and ready, you can now plan your harvest.
The best time to pick blueberries is in the morning, which is when the fruits are at their sweetest.
To be absolutely sure, pick one and give it a taste!
If you had to tug on the fruit to free it from the stem, that means it still needs more time to grow.
Step 2: Pick only ripe and plump berries.
After making sure they are the right color and sweetness, go ahead and start picking.
Using your thumb, gently roll the berry off from the stem and straight to your palm.
Alternatively, you can try “tickling” them.
To do this, hold onto a stem or a cluster of berries and then pat them gently. Ripe berries should fall off the branch with no effort at all.
From that same stem or cluster, continue picking berries of the same deep blue color.
Step 3: Put your harvest in a basket.
Gently place every handful of berries into the basket, making sure you don’t squeeze them so that you don’t scratch the skin.
It’s also important that you keep your freshly harvested blueberries away from direct sunlight.
You might need more than one basket to carry your harvest to avoid packing the berries too tightly.
Step 4: Continue caring for your blueberry plants until the next harvest.
If the climate in your area allows, you can have two harvests every summer.
That said, you must make sure you give your blueberries their preferred growing conditions for this to happen.
These flowering plants thrive in a sunny location and need roughly six to eight hours of sunlight.
They also love moist acidic soil, so water them twice a week.
Should You Wash Blueberries After Harvesting?
No idea what to do with your blueberries after picking them? Like all fresh produce, you should wash them first before eating them.
The goal is to remove any dirt or bugs that might be lurking around.
To do this properly, you will want to use a colander or strainer.
Since these are delicate fruits, don’t wash them under running water. Instead, prepare a large basin filled with cold water and dip the berries in.
This is also a good time to remove the stems and leaves mixed in with your harvest.
Another way to wash blueberries is using a white vinegar and water solution, especially if you used a pesticide.
Leave the berries in the solution for about five to 10 minutes before rinsing using fresh water.
This technique will help extend the shelf life of your blueberries, but you have to dry them completely afterward.
Can You Eat Blueberries Immediately After Harvesting?
Do blueberries need time to ripen off the plant, or can you eat them immediately after picking?
Blueberries taste their best right after picking, but we advise washing the fruits first to remove any dirt.
You can eat them as they are or turn them into smoothies, pies, or salad garnish.
That said, you probably won’t be able to eat them all at once, so it’s a good idea to learn how to store them.
Storing blueberries in the fridge
After washing and allowing blueberries to dry completely, you can put them in the fridge for later use.
To do this, start by getting a breathable container and layering the bottom with a paper towel.
Then, put the berries on top, making sure you don’t pack them too tightly.
Instead of the crisper drawer, you will want to put the container in the middle rack where there’s low moisture and low humidity.
Because there’s no moisture buildup, your blueberries will last five to 10 days in the fridge stored like this.
Others use mason jars to store blueberries.
If you only need them to last for a week to a week and a half, this storage method will do.
Clean and dry the jars completely before adding the blueberries, then place them in the coldest part of your refrigerator.
For longer storage, you can also try freezing your freshly harvested blueberries.
Again, wash and dry them first and remove any fruit with bruising or discoloration.
After that, lay them out on a flat baking tray and put the tray in the freezer so that the fruits freeze separately.
Once the fruits are frozen, transfer them to a Ziploc bag or any freezer-safe container and put them back in the freezer.
Frozen blueberries will stay intact for about six to 10 months.
Another way to preserve blueberries is to dry them, which is fairly easy to do.
Put your blueberries on a baking sheet and bake for three hours on your oven’s lowest temperature setting.
The fruits will be deflated, crispy, and have a more pungent taste.
Transfer the dried blueberries to sealed containers and put them in the pantry. The fruits will be good to eat for up to six months.
Even if you will have to wait for years for the bush to bear fruits, there’s no doubt your efforts will be worth it in the end.
Blueberries are a delight to eat but are even more exciting to grow and harvest.
What’s more, you won’t run out of ideas on where to use them.
From turning them into jam and adding them to smoothies to baking blueberry muffins and pies, there are many ways to enjoy them.
The best part is that once they are established and become strong bushes, they will continue to thrive and produce fruits for decades!