Family Matters

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2001


It’s time to pick berries Berries are ready for picking – strawberries, blackberries, mulberries, dew berries and soon blueberries. They are drying up fast, so don’t procrastinate. I have been enjoying picking blackberries along the river for about two weeks now. I’m sure you will find some if you get out and look. They can be found along the river, ditch banks, fence lines and wooded areas. Precautions must be remembered; dress for the occasion – boots, long pants and long sleeves. Use sun screen. Beware of snakes. Use insect repellent. Beware of red ants. Be safe – make this an opportunity for a family activity – never go alone. If you would prefer a more cultured environment there are some you-pick farms that make berry picking less challenging. Pick berries when they are dry, if possible. When wet from dew or rain, they spoil more quickly. Pick firm, full ripe berries for full flavor. Handle the berries carefully. They are delicate and crush easily. Place them gently in your bucket. Don’t fill it too full. Use containers that are not too large. I personally like to use gallon buckets. They are easy to carry and the bottom berries fair well. Berries on the bottom of a large bucket may get crushed. Keep the berries cool and out of direct sunlight. Sunlight can make them bitter after they are picked. Berries need air, so if using plastic bags for picking, punch a few holes for air and empty the bags when you get home. Sort the berries and remove the leaves, stems and crushed ones. Fresh berries should be washed only when ready to use, so they won’t spoil. If they are wet, be sure to gently pat dry and store uncovered shallow containers in the refrigerator. Berries free of bruises should last two to three days stored this way. Using berries: You can enjoy fresh berries as they come from the field or prepare them in dozens of ways including blackberry cobbler. A cool summer treat can be a deliciously different low-fat blackberry sherbet. Freeze them to enjoy year round or can them or make wonderful jellies, jams, preserves and berry syrup. Commercial pectin is often used for easy jellies and jams. Nutritional value: Besides the great flavor, blackberries can contribute important nutrients to the diet. They are low in calories, rich in dietary fiber, a good source of iron, niacin and vitamin C and contain small amounts of many other minerals and vitamins. For information on using, freezing and canning berries contact LSU Ag Center extension agent Cathy J. Holmes at 497-3260 or CATHY HOLMES is a LSU Ag Center St. John Parish extension agent.