Pick and store soft fruits

One of the best moments in the summer garden is the ripening of berries and soft fruits. You have to know how to harvest them so you can enjoy their flavors. All soft fruits must be picked with care, as any damage makes their appearance unsightly and severely limits the storage qualities and increase the risk of fungal mold infection. A week before picking you should check the stage of fruits development and you might find that some plants may need a light trim in order to increase fruits visibility, reduce the humidity around the fruits and allow more sunlight into it.

The best moment to pick soft fruits is when there is no moisture on their surface, on dry conditions and before they are overripened, as the wetness and overripeness cause the fruits to deteriorate very rapidly when handled. The ideal stage for picking is when the fruits are firm and fully colored but not fully ripe, when they part easily from the plant. Start picking on the sunniest side of the plant, where the surface of each fruit is driest.

Blackberries, loganberries and raspberries should be picked with a gentle pull, living the core or plug behind, on the plant. Gooseberries and strawberries are picked by breaking the stalk. Blackcurrants, whitecurrants and redcurrants are taken off as bunches complete with their stalks.

If you pick the fruits with care you can allow some fruits to gather in the palm of your hand before you transfer them into a picking container. If the containers were used before you have to wash them properly to reduce the amount of dirt and fungal spores that they may contain. Fill the containers only about 6-8 fruits deep to prevent the bottom fruits from being crushed. Once the containers are filled up place them in a shaded place out of direct sunlight with a paper cover to keep out the insects. Do not use plastic covers as they keep in the heat and this will speed up the ripening process. Take the containers inside and place them in a cool, dark place, within half an hour of picking, in order to reduce the heat and slow down the ripening process.

Soft fruits do not store well for long periods of time unless they are frozen or preserved. They should be eaten within 24 hours of being harvest. Do not wash the fruits to cool or clean them until you will eat them, since this will encourage the mold and spoil the fruits. Fruits that are harvested for jams or jellies do not need such a careful handling as long as they are cooked within a few hours of picking.

 

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