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My neighbor brought over a fresh batch of blueberries. Some are sweet and some are sour. He told us to come over and pick some whenever we wanted, but I don't know the right time to pick them so that they taste the best. Any advice?

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4 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

In the case of most bush berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) depth of color and ease of picking are the most indicative signs of ripeness. The berries that are on the sunniest side of the bushes will ripen first. The greater more sun exposure they receive the quicker they ripen, thus the reason that a grouping of berries even in one area will ripen at different rates.

Many people say that the larger berries are sweeter but my experience is that is more anecdotal than preciese. Most fruits will be more plump with access to more water during the growing season but that doesn't necessarily make them sweeter. Grapes that have to struggle generally tend to produce better wines with more concentrated flavor because the natural sugars aren't watered down by high quantities of water.

To reiterate, look for deep dark color and ease of picking.

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When it's plump, and happily jumps off when lightly tickled. :-)

Seriously, you can put a container under the berries and whichever ones easily fall off (with gentle encouragement) are the right ones to get. If you had to really pull them off, then they're not ready yet.

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This seems somehow related to the question of taking food writers to bed. –  bmargulies Jul 18 '10 at 20:06
    
This reminds me of the adage: "They're ripe the day before the birds eat them." That is, the longer they're on the bush, the more sugar they'll get. –  Peter V Jul 22 '10 at 5:06
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In my experience, if they come off the branch easily, they're good. If you have to exercise force to pick them, you're usually in for a bunch of sourness.

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This varies significantly by state and variety:

For Louisiana, the season starts in May and goes through July

For Maine it will be later

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Here in Western Washington I picked some more blueberries this afternoon (Sept 2) –  Jay Sep 3 '10 at 2:08
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