I love when blueberry season comes around in the heat of summer. I head to my nearest farmers market to buy these small berries and often start snacking on them before I get home. Sometimes I bite into a slightly sour berry. Others in the same container, are wonderfully sweet.
Curious why this might be, I spoke to two blueberry experts about how to tell if a blueberry is ripe and tips for selecting the best berries.
The Most Important Thing To Look for When Buying Blueberries
Color clues in farmers when blueberries are ready for harvesting. “Once a blueberry turns blue, it’s 10 to 14 days before it’s sweet,” says Terry Perfetti, blueberry grower and owner of Cherry Knoll Farm in New York.
When buying blueberries, pay attention to the color. “You want a solid and even blue powdery color,” says Brian Bocock, Naturipe Farms Vice President of Product Management. (The whitish coating is called bloom and is the natural protection that grows on the berries.) “That’s the best way to tell if they’re firm,” which is a sign they were picked at the right time.
Pink or pinkish-blue means they were picked too early, and they’ll just go soft without getting sweet. Blueberries are not like strawberries, which will continue to mature after being picked.
When Buying Blueberries, Does Size Matter?
Blueberries have a short season that can range from mid-June to early September, but climate and geographical regions can shorten the growing period. If you buy blueberries often, you may notice the size differences—sometimes they are giant, and other times tiny.
Blueberry size is influenced by the variety as well as when it’s harvested. “Your first picking is always the biggest berry,” says Perfetti. “In a normal year, you’ll pick a bush at least three to four times.” The size of the berry isn’t an indication of flavor or sweetness.
4 More Tips for Buying Blueberries
The blueberry growers I spoke to shared four more tips for buying directly from farmers and at the grocery store:
1. Ask To Taste the Blueberries:
If you’re buying directly from a farmer, ask for a sample. Just know that it’s not a guarantee that all of the blueberries will taste like the one you tried. “You’ll get a sweet one or maybe even a little tart one, but nothing’s perfect,” says Perfetti. That’s because blueberries don’t ripen at the same time, even on the same bush.
2. Shake the Container:
This technique is best when buying from a grocery store. “Give the container a little shake—if it rattles almost like marbles, you’re good to go,” says Bocock. “It’s a sign that the berries are firm and ready for you!”
3. The Packaging Matters:
Make sure air can circulate in the container. “I find that the berries keep nicer in a pulp basket rather than the plastic clamshell,” says Perfetti.
And according to Bocock, “Clamshells protect berries from being squashed or crushed and allow them to breathe.” You should always avoid containers without ventilation. “For example, a pack wrapped in plastic wrap or a bag could prompt mold growth,” he says.
4. Be Wary of Specials:
Love a deal? I do too. Yet think twice when you see blueberries on sale at the supermarket because they may not be tasty. According to Perfetti, “Buy one and get two free deals are a no-no because that grocery store or whoever is selling them is just trying to get rid of them.” The blueberries are likely not at their prime.