A ripe blackberry is deep black with a plump, full, and slightly tender feel. If the berry is red or purple, it’s not ripe yet. A ripe blackberry will pull free from the plant with only a slight tug.
The skin of a fully ripe berry is dull black, not shiny. These are the sweetest berries! Berries picked for wholesale are picked when still shiny, so they will keep — pick-your-own folks have the privilege of waiting until the berries are fully ripe and no longer shiny, but these will not keep as long. Overripe fruit is also dull, but starting to get soft and leaky.
When you start to pick, eat a few — you will soon know what you should be looking for. If you are picking with children, teach them what to look for and how to pick.
Most growers furnish picking containers designed for blackberries, but they may charge you for them; be sure to call before you go to see if you need to bring containers and to make sure the fields are open for picking that day.
Don’t overfill your containers or try to pack the berries down. Five inches is a maximum depth — anything more and the berries at the bottom will start to crush.
Protect berries from direct sunlight, especially in the car. Open car windows or run the air conditioner so there will be some air movement.
If berries have warmed in the field, try to get the “field heat” out of the center of the container by quickly moving them to an air conditioned or refrigerated place with good air circulation. (Commercial growers pull chilled air through the flats with fans.) Using shallow, ventilated containers helps this process.
When You Get Your Blackberries Home
Refrigerate berries immediately. If possible, store them in the original container. Remove any damaged or moldy berries that you see, but do not sort through berries, you will only damage them.
Do not wash before storing.
For best quality, use or process berries within 2-3 days.
To wash blackberries, place them in a colander and submerge two or three times in a sink full of cold water. Drain well.