Today our raspberry bushes were covered with ripe berries. My husband Chris and I had noticed that they were ripening over the last few days and I was looking forward to doing some serious raspberry picking.
I’m not sure what I like most about picking raspberries – the pretty scene of the red berries against the vibrant green leaves, the anticipation of eating the berries, or the opportunity to spend some time with Chris.
One of Chris’ favorite things is raspberries, so whenever I mention that it’s picking time, he is always right there beside me, bowl in hand.
Today I’ll share some thoughts on how to pick raspberries.
First take note that raspberries are a member of the rose family and, like roses, raspberries do have thorns. The thorns are slender, short, sharp, and almost fuzzy.
Our raspberries are growing along the length of our chain-link fence, so we don’t have to do much stepping into or reaching into the clusters of limbs. For that reason Chris and I don’t wear gloves or long sleeves when we pick raspberries.
For most cases, though, when you pick raspberries, you should wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves. This is especially true if you are picking from a thick raspberry bramble and will need to reach or step far into the bushes to reach the fruit.
Our raspberries turn a beautiful deep shade of dark red when they are ripe. In the early summer, they start out as hard, little brown buds that seem to me to look like dried up raspberries. With a little patience and a lot of rain and sun, the berries begin to turn white, then green, then pale pink, then orange-red, and finally dark red. The dark, yet vibrant, red berries are ready to pick.
When the raspberries are almost too ripe, they will develop a faint dusty grey sheen. Once they have reached this stage, pick them at once and enjoy or freeze them right away.
It’s really not hard to tell when a raspberry is ready to pick. All you have to do is try to pick them. If you gently pull at the berry, the ripe ones will just slide off into your hand. Ripe raspberries leave behind a stem with a soft white core on the cane when they are picked. The berry itself will have a hollow tube shape in the middle.
If the raspberry gives resistance and is hard to pull off the cane, then it is not quite ripe. Don’t worry if you pick a few that did not slide easily off the stem. If they are just slightly under-ripe, they will finish ripening in your refrigerator.
Take note at this point that some raspberry varieties will ripen to a blue-black color, very similar to the color of blackberries. Use the same test for telling when they are ripe: If you have to force them off the cane, they are not yet ripe. Further, the ripe blue-black raspberries will also leave a white core behind on the cane when they are picked. (That is one way you can tell raspberries from blackberries, by the way.)
After you’ve picked a few ripe berries, you will begin to recognize the color of the ripe raspberries. For our raspberries, the not-yet-ready ones will be orange red. When they lose the orange color and deepen to red, they are ready to pick. So I watch for the orange tint and avoid picking the ones that have not reached dark red.
You have to check individual raspberries for ripeness. Although they grow in clusters, I almost always find that they ripen at different rates. One or two berries in the cluster might be rich-ripe while the other berries are still not even close to being ready to pick.
As the raspberries are picked, they should be gently placed in the container. The berries are delicate and can fall apart or bruise if they are not handled with a bit of reverence.
I don’t wash the raspberries before I refrigerate them. I find that they last much longer if I rinse them just before eating.
If you prefer to wash them before storing them, be very gentle with the water spray. (Some advocate adding a tablespoon or so of vinegar to the rinse water to help them stay fresher. I haven’t tried using vinegar in the rinse, so I can’t say much about it.) Lay the berries single file and let them dry before storing. Water drops left in them will turn them soft and encourage molding.
Fresh picked raspberries will last a little longer in your refrigerator than store-purchased ones. I can keep raspberries for up to a week in the refrigerator. After about four days, though, they start to get soft and begin to get overripe.
At this point in storage, or actually a day or two before they reach this point, I put the raspberries in the freezer and use them later in smoothies, on cereal, or for baking. Raspberries freeze surprisingly well for such a delicate fruit.
Here are the raspberries we picked today.
Don’t those look delicious? I feel like a lucky woman to have the luxury of walking outside and picking an abundance of these beautiful raspberries.
For tips on picking mulberries, see our earlier post …. Wild Blackberries? No, they are Mulberries