How to Pick and Preserve Your Favorite Berries

Summer is a great opportunity to stock up on local berries. You can get more variety, higher quality and cheaper berries if you pick your own compared to buying them from a store. Try some of these tips to help harvest the best of this year’s crop.

Tips for Picking on a Farm

Phone ahead. Even if a local farm has their hours posted, the availability of their berries may change due to weather or demand. Call them before you go to make sure they have the berries you want.

Pick early in the day. This is when berries will be the best quality. They can get dehydrated and overripe by the end of a hot day, so try to pick in the morning when possible.

Bring a good container (or many). Farms and u-picks typically don’t provide containers or buckets to pick into. And many will weigh your empty containers before you start picking to ensure you don’t over-pay for your berries at your final weigh-in.

Take supplies. If you plan on picking for a while, bring water and a snack as well as any support you need, such as knee pads, a small bench to sit on or gloves if you don’t want stained hands.

Be thorough. Pick all the ripe berries on a plant rather than just the obvious ones. Check under the leaves and on the lower parts of the plants. Excellent quality fruit are often hidden out of sight, and they’ll only rot if they get missed. The farmers will also thank you for keeping their fields in good shape.

Dress appropriately. Pack anything from rain gear and a sweater to a sun hat and sunglasses, depending on the weather. Being ready for the elements will make your day much more enjoyable.

Keep it fun. Remember berry picking doesn’t have to be a serious event, especially if you bring your kids. It’s a good time to run around, have fun and get berries all over your face. And if the whole family enjoys the trip, everyone will want to come back again next year.

How to Pick and Preserve Berries


Tips for Picking from the Wild

Get a good field guide. Some wild berries are very poisonous. Make sure you’re prepared with a detailed guide book for identification with clear, full-color pictures.

Keep an eye out for patches while traveling. Once you’re good at identifying your favorite wild berries, watch out for them when you’re hiking, biking, driving or camping. If they’re out of season, take note of where you saw the patch and come back when the berries are ready.

Pick high. This is particularly important in high-traffic areas where dogs or other animals could have peed on the lower branches of your berry plants.

Leave some for wildlife. Don’t clean wild bushes of all their fruit. Berries are a vital food source for many species.

Avoid road sides. Berry plants located next to roads could be covered in herbicides, exhaust from vehicles, litter and potential chemical spills. Try to find patches off the beaten track.

Wear long sleeves and pants. It may be tempting to catch some sun while you’re picking, but thorns, stinging nettles, poison ivy, insects or other wild hazards make covering up a good choice.

Respect parks and private property. Make sure you’re allowed to pick in the area you’ve found. Contact your city hall or municipality to check local regulations around wild berry picking.

What to pick?

Many options for berry picking exist depending on your location. Check out if any farms grow these berries near you or keep an eye out for wild varieties.

  • Strawberries – a spring classic that’s typically available in June, but ever-bearing varieties may be available throughout the summer until frost.
  • Raspberries – typically ripe in June and July with some longer-season varieties available.
  • Currants – black, red, and white currants all ripen during the summer and each type has a different, unique flavor.
  • Mulberries – these may be more difficult to find, but these sweet berries are worth seeking out for their flavor and nutritional value.
  • Honeyberries – similar to a blueberry, honeyberries are one of the first berries to ripen in late April or May.
  • Blackberries – a blackberry’s tasty flavor is distinct, and types range from very thorny wild varieties to thornless cultivated varieties.
  • Blueberries – cultivated and wild varieties also exist for blueberries, and the wild types are known for stronger flavor.
  • Huckleberries – this is a delicious type of wild blueberry that will ripen in late summer at higher elevations.
  • Saskatoon berries – a wild berry that grows in some Northern areas and fruits in June or July.
  • Elderberries – a wild berry that’s not very tasty fresh, but are popular for wine, jelly or syrup.
How to Pick and Preserve Berries


Now what do you do with them?

Once you’ve eaten as many fresh berries as you can handle, there are a few different ways you can preserve the rest of your harvest for winter.

Freezing. Preparing your berries for freezing is fast and easy. This is a great option if you have an extra freezer, otherwise your regular fridge freezer can fill up fairly quickly. Frozen berries have a good texture to use in smoothies or baking once they’re thawed as well as keeping most of their nutrients.

Dehydrating. Dried berries are easier to store than frozen berries and also retain nutrients well, although the drying process can take some patience. Dehydrated berries are good to snack on plain or rehydrate for use in recipes. You can dehydrate berries in a dehydrator or try the oven method.

Canning. This involves heating the berries so you can lose some heat-volatile nutrients like vitamin C. But antioxidants and many other vitamins and minerals will still be retained regardless of heating. Canning is a more complicated process than freezing or drying, but canned berries can last in storage for at least one to two years.

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Emma L
Emma L8 days ago


Ingrid A
Past Member 20 days ago

thanks for the article

Anna R
Anna Rabout a month ago

thanks for this

Lesa D
Past Member 5 months ago

BERRY good information!!!

thank you Zoe...

Jetana A
Jetana A5 months ago

Sorry for the double posting, but 2 more things. The "cover" photo on this article is gorgeous! And, please, everyone flag the garbage spam posted 4 times (grrr!) by Julian Funds.

Jetana A
Jetana A5 months ago

I used to love picking berries, which grew both wild and cultivated where I lived and vacationed. Now that I'm homebound in the desert, I eat frozen berries almost every day and wish I could grow them here.

Clare O
Clare O'Beara5 months ago


Clare O
Clare O'Beara5 months ago


Clare O
Clare O'Beara5 months ago

this summer was too hot and dry for a good crop in my garden

Camilla V
Camilla Vaga5 months ago