July brings a bounty of fresh berries into season that we can't wait to have on our plates! It is important to remember that, like strawberries, the blueberry and raspberry seasons vary greatly from southern to northern regions of the state. Search through the 78 local farms offering blueberries or raspberries in the Minnesota Grown directory.
We spoke to a variety of berry farmers across the state to check-in on the current berry crop. Most berry farms in southern and central Minnesota open this week while others in Northern Minnesota will open at the end of July. As always, it is important to call your local producer as the season progresses to check on availability.
When picking raspberries, grasp the berry gently between your thumb and finger and pull downward. If the berry is fully ripe it will fall easily into your hand using this method. If the berry does not detach easily, it is not yet ripe. Remember, raspberries do not continue to ripen after picking. Choose only those that are fully red. Place in shallow containers and refrigerate as soon as possible.
Use a similar technique to pick blueberries by rolling the berry between your thumb and palm. A ripe berry will fall off the stem easily and into your hand. Blueberries will not continue to ripen after being picked so avoid the green or white ones. Do not wash the berries until they are ready to be processed. Blueberries may be picked and placed in deep containers for storage. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
There are over 200 species of raspberries, but only three are grown commercially – black, red and purple raspberries. Traditionally, raspberries were a mid-summer crop, but with the help of new cultivars we are able to enjoy the berries for a much longer season. Many different varieties of raspberries grow in Minnesota and are referred to in different ways depending on when they bear fruit and how often. Some people refer to them as summer-bearing, fall-bearing or ever-bearing raspberries.
Since they grow well in our temperate climate, Minnesotans love them! They can be considered invasive because their vines spread easily if they are not pruned. They propagate using extended underground basal shoots that develop roots and grow into individual plants. These plants grow a short distance away from the main plant and also send out basal shoots. Raspberries are vigorous and can take over your garden if left unattended.
Did you know that raspberries rank high on the list of the world’s most popular berries, and the United States is among the world’s top producers? Blueberry and raspberry picking is a great family-friendly activity! Pick-your-own berries can also be an economical way to incorporate more of these healthy fruits into your diet. Blueberries and raspberries are nutritious because they are high in antioxidants and Vitamin C. They are excellent eaten raw or made into jams and jellies. They steal the show when baked into desserts, breads, or muffins.
Dan Whitcomb from JQ Fruit Farm in Princeton said, “Fruits purchased from a local producer are going to be much fresher and last much longer than those shipped from afar. They are often picked day of purchase and are hand harvested. This could extend your storage and use of berries by days or weeks! You will always find higher quality fruit when purchasing from a local grower.”
For recipes and other tips for preserving Minnesota berries, visit the University of Minnesota Extension Service’s web site. A special thank you to our awesome Minnesota Grown berry growers who shared their knowledge to us for this article.