10 Essential Tips For Choosing and Storing Perfect Blueberries in Bulk-Buying Season
I admit it. I’m a blueberry fanatic. In fact, around this time of year, I become so obsessed by blueberries that I often find myself wanting to include them in every meal of the day. But if you’re like me, a busy schedule means that you can’t stop by local grocers or farm stands daily for your summer-time blueberries fix. That means you need to buy your blueberries – whether wild or cultivated – on the weekends in quantity and then make sure that your precious berry cache lasts through the week.
Luckily, buying blueberries in bulk has a number of attractive benefits. Not only are berries in bulk generally less expensive, but a bigger buy also allows one to justify a special, once-a-week trip to purchase the blueberries directly from the local farmers who picked them. Sourcing my berries locally means I can ensure that I’m getting the absolute freshest produce, while also supporting family farms and gleaning valuable insights into how the berries were grown, picked and packaged.
Still, even in rural New England where I live and where farms stands everywhere seem to sell blueberries, the little blue bits of heaven are hardly ‘cheap,’ whether bought in bulk or not. Which makes it decidedly sub-optimal to purchase a whole lot of fresh berries on Saturday afternoon only to have to throw most of them out on Monday morning. So, I thought I’d share a number of practical lessons that I’ve learned over the years about the proper selection and keeping of blueberries.
1. Check the Calendar. Good blueberries are generally only available in most parts of North America from the beginning of June through middle of September. You just plain won’t get the tastiest blueberries outside of this window, so don’t buy in bulk outside of it.
2. Check the Carton. You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can often judge the state of your blueberries from their container. Only buy berries in clean, dry cartons. If you see any signs of stains, moisture, mold or residue from leakage on the container, it’s like these berries won’t be very good for very long.
3. Buy Organic – or at Least Pesticide-Free. Blueberries are fruits with very thin, porous, fragile skins, and irregular tops where the berries connect to their stems. Pesticides pass easily into the fruit and so can’t really be rinsed off. Make it easy on yourself and your future health – try to avoid buying blueberries grown with pesticides.
4. Jiggle it – Just a Little Bit. When blueberries get past their prime, they often get soft and less round. So if you gently make sure that berries move freely in their carton at the time of purchase, you’re more likely to be buying fresh berries.
5. Only Purchase Already-RIpe Blueberries – They Won’t Ripen in the Carton. Blueberries are a type of berry that doesn’t ripen much after picking. So only buy blueberries that are deep blue to blue-black in color – avoid any that show red, brown, green or pinkish-purple tones. They won’t ever ripen.
6. Look for the Waxy Build-up. If a blueberry has a whitish or silvery build-up on their surface, it’s a good thing. This waxy covering is called a blueberry’s bloom, and it is a natural protection against mold and insects that is most apparent when a blueberry is at its peak of ripeness.
7. Don’t Wash Blueberries Prior to Storage. Surface moisture hastens the breakdown of blueberries, so don’t wash them until immediately before eating them. Washing blueberries also removes most of ripe blueberries’ bloom, a natural barrier to molds and mildews that, if eliminated, will decrease the time that picked blueberries retain their freshness.
8. Refrigerate in a Covered, but not Airtight Container. Most good blueberry containers sold in groceries have air holes around the sides and a light covering on top. Farmers often sell blueberries in cardboard punnets with a layer of celephane on top – this is also a good solution. So long as they remain dry, ripe blueberries will retain their freshness for up to around two weeks in a refrigerator.
9. When Refrigerating Blueberries. Place Cartons on a Wire Rack or Trivet. This little trick helps to keep air circulating around the carton and helps limit moisture build up.
10. Don’t Pick Blueberries from the Container with Your Fingers, Pour Them Out. Sometimes reaching into a blueberry carton with your fingers can bruise blueberries, and introduce oils and bacteria that will accelerate spoilage. So next time you need a few blueberries from the refrigerator, pour some from the carton gently. This will also serve to redistribute the blueberries left in the carton, slowing down the deterioration of the blueberries on the bottom.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons