Welcome to your Best Ever Guide to Blueberry Picking in British Columbia!
Blueberries are one of the tiniest fruits out there, but don’t let their humble size fool you. They are not only bursting with flavour, they’re versatile, healthy, and extremely low maintenance. Beyond the actual blueberry picking, there is not an easier fruit in existence to prepare and serve. You don’t need to core, pit, or peel blueberries, and they are easily canned, frozen, or dried for long-term storage.
Once they’re ready to be harvested, the explosion of flavour these tiny morsels provide is impressive. You’ll almost certainly be impressed with their abundance of health benefits too!
Best Ever Guide to Blueberry Picking in British Columbia
If you’re interested in an outdoor excursion, rest assured, you couldn’t have chosen a better combination than blueberry picking and British Columbia.
Get to Know BC Blueberries
Below are some helpful tips about picking this delicious fruit and ways to care for and enjoy your blueberry harvest:
Harvest Season for BC Blueberries
British Columbia’s blueberry picking season typically goes from July to September, which is when the blueberry fields in BC are bursting with colour and flavour. Different varieties of blueberries provide world-class options regarding sweetness and texture, and many varieties can be picked throughout the season.
BC Blueberry Varieties
There are over 30 types of blueberries worldwide, some of which are too bitter to eat, but most of which are quite tasty. British Columbia is home to numerous delectable varieties, including the new kid on the block, Calypso. Below are some of the most popular types of blueberries and variations regarding picking time:
Duke blueberries are a leading variety, and have a delicious, mild flavour that improves if they are refrigerated. They feature a light blue colour, and have a very juicy texture, making them great for smoothies. Their large size also makes them terrific for both fresh eating and baking and they’re typically harvested early in the season, in the month of July.
Northland blueberries are medium-sized, firm, and feature an extremely sweet flavour, making them perfect for sumptuous desserts. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be tempted to eat this blueberry right off the bush. This variety is typically harvested from the beginning to the middle of the BC blueberry picking season.
Calypso blueberries made their way into the spotlight because of their delicious flavour. You’ll be surprised at how many you’ll find on a single bush when picking this tasty variety. Calypso blueberries are medium or large in size, and feature a light blue colour. Their flavour is not overly sweet, yet you’ll taste minimal tartness. For this reason, Calypso blueberries are highly versatile. In addition, they also have a terrific shelf life. Good for just about anything, Calypso blueberries are best picked from the middle to the end of the blueberry picking season.
Draper blueberries are firm, large, and feature a light blue colour. They have a mild flavor that is not overly sweet, and boast a bit of spiciness when you first bite in. Perfect for fresh eating or baking, these large blueberries should be harvested early. However, depending on fluctuations in weather, you may still find them available for picking throughout the middle of the season. These blueberries are a favourite among locals in British Columbia, due to their strong shelf life and fantastic post-harvest colour retention.
Bluecrop blueberries are ideal if your goal is one of the freshest varieties for British Columbia’s blueberry picking season. They can be picked throughout the season, and are best for fresh eating. They are light blue, firm and large, and feature a distinct tart flavour that makes them a delicious snack. They also boast an excellent shelflife, and although they do not retain their postharvest colour quite as good as Draper blueberries, they do keep it longer than average.
These medium-sized blueberries grow in very thick clusters, and have a wonderfully sweet flavour. They are incredibly juicy as well, and are great for eating fresh or in smoothies, but are also a good choice for cooking and baking. They are best picked at the end of the BC blueberry picking season, but should be used shortly after picking for the most satisfactory experience.
How to Pick BC Blueberries
Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits in the world to pick, and there is no special technique needed. Using your thumb, simply roll the blueberries off their stems. If you are harvesting them at the appropriate season, they will almost fall into your palm at the slightest amount of pressure.
Pay Attention to Color
When blueberry picking, be certain to choose only those berries that are blue around their entire circumference. If you see any areas on the berry that appear green or white, leave those on the bush. Even if the berries still feature a blush of red, it is an indication that they are not yet ripe enough to be picked. However, a small tinge of red does not mean the berries cannot be harvested, it just means they may have to do a little ripening afterwards, which will require keeping them at room temperature.
Blueberries that still have white or green patches will not ripen if they are picked, though. So if you do want to pick some to ripen at a later time, make sure you avoid green or white berries, since these will remain sour. Ultimately, it is best to let blueberries fully ripen on the bush before they are picked at all. The flavour simply comes out sweeter and more potent if they are fully ripened before being harvested. Look for berries that appear greyish blue. This is a failsafe sign that they are fully ripened.
When blueberry picking, don’t be tempted to pick exclusively from the front of the bush. We’ve discovered that the biggest clusters of ripe, plump blueberries are found on the undersides of the branches, in the middle of the bush. You’re making a day of it, so why not go home with the biggest, best berries you can find?
What Not to Pick
When picking blueberries, make sure you steer clear of berries that are leaking juice or those featuring wrinkled skins. Blueberries are also very susceptible to mould, so if it appears that even a small spot of mould has started, don’t pick from that cluster. Finally, ripened blueberries are a bit fragile, so don’t put them in closed containers or bags or expose them to excessive heat or sun.
How to Store BC Blueberries
Picking blueberries is definitely the fun part, but it’s also important to know how to store your blueberries to ensure satisfactory results from the farm to the table.
Once you arrive home with your stash, gently roll them onto a large tray where you can spread them out without bruising or damaging them. Look for any ‘casualties’ that may have succumbed to heat or pressure on the way home. Just like the old saying about apples, a bad blueberry can quickly start to rot its neighbours, so pick out any that look pierced or damaged and discard them.
Cleaning Your Blueberries
To properly clean blueberries, gently place them in a strainer or colander and use cold water to thoroughly rinse them. Because they are delicate, don’t use strong water pressure. In fact, we found that you can rinse them appropriately just by swishing them around in a bowl filled with cool water. Once they are rinsed, spread them over paper towels or clean kitchen towels, and let them dry in the open air for a few hours.
If you plan to store your blueberries in a pantry, make sure you use them within a few days. Try to store them in single layers with paper towels in between, and make sure your pantry shelves are cool and dry.
The better way, however, is to store them in the refrigerator, simply because they will last longer this way. For refrigerator storage, don’t wash the blueberries first, simply store them as is until you are ready to eat them or use them for cooking or baking. This is because extra moisture from the washing process can result in them going bad quickly in the refrigerator.
Don’t store your blueberries in sealed containers, particularly if you are storing them in the refrigerator. This can trap moisture inside, and hasten moulding and rotting. It’s best to store them in plastic clamshells or large, uncovered containers or bowls. Finally, make sure you store them in the main area of your refrigerator, as opposed to a crisping drawer, because this will provide better air circulation to the fruit.
How to Freeze BC Blueberries
If you’re going to freeze your blueberries, then washing them first is recommended. After they are washed, make sure they are allowed to dry completely before freezing them to ensure that they freeze rapidly and evenly. This is the best way to preserve their texture for future use. Allowing them to dry also prevents them from clumping together. In other words, when you’re ready to use your blueberries for cooking or baking, you don’t want to find you have a ‘blueberry ice block’ or freezer burned berries.
The best way to freeze them is on a rimmed baking sheet. In single layers, they should freeze in approximately 30 minutes. Once frozen, you can transfer them to large Ziploc bags, but make sure you remove as much air as possible before sealing the bags. Store them flat so they can be stacked, and make sure to label them with the date.
When stored properly, blueberries should last nine months to a year in the freezer, although ideally they should be used in six months. If stored in the refrigerator, they should last up to two weeks if the proper process is followed. After that, they may lose some of their peak texture and flavour.
Interesting Facts and Tips About Blueberries
British Columbia is one of the world’s largest highbush blueberry growing region and blueberries are Canada’s most exported fruit. The country ranks third worldwide with regard to blueberry production, which is not surprising when you think of all the wonderful varieties of blueberries found in British Columbia alone.
Canadian production of both cultivated and wild blueberries in 2019 was 190 million pounds in 2019 with a $7 billion dollar impact on the BC economy. Blueberries account for 29% of all fruit value in British Columbia.
Blueberries are a High Yield Fruit
You may be surprised to find that 6000 blueberries can be harvested from a single bush on a yearly basis. Over 2000 berries can be picked from a healthy blueberry plant in just one season.
Interestingly, blueberry bushes have an extraordinary life span, and when cared for properly, a blueberry bush can live seven decades or longer. The average lifespan of a blueberry bush is four decades. One healthy blueberry bush can yield approximately 100,000 blueberries during its lifetime.
Not All Blueberries are Blue
Anhocyanins, a powerful group of substances, give blueberries their pigment, and they are the only ‘blue’ food that humans consume. However, you might be interested to know that not all blueberries are blue. Sometimes, the pigment that gives them their colour can appear opaque or even a bit pink. This is just a variation of mother nature and does not affect the taste of the blueberries at all.
Additionally, never fear if you see a silvery sheen on your blueberries. This is often referred to as a ‘bloom’ by those in the farming industry and it is actually a good sign. It tells you that the blueberry bush from which the fruit came was a healthy plant. The silvery, waxy layer is actually a kind of natural defence that keeps insects and the elements from harming the growing fruit.
One last Blueberry Picking Tip
When on your blueberry picking excursion, look for a bush that appears to have lots of ripe berries and pick it clean. You will be surprised at how much you can harvest from just one bush. Unlike other types of fruit harvesting, there’s no need to move around. If you find a bush that’s loaded, stay put and capture the windfall.You’ll save energy on a hot day, and you’ll be leaving other full bushes for your fellow pickers.
Health Benefits of BC Blueberries
If you’re wondering about the health benefits of BC blueberries, you’ll be pleased to know that this is one snack in which you can indulge every day without feeling guilty. This is because this fruit is not only wildly popular, it is also healthy and nutritious. Frequently referred to as a superfood, blueberries are incredibly good for you and below are just a handful of the positive benefits they boast:
An Outstanding Nutritional Profile
Blueberries contain a vast array of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, all of which are linked to notable health benefits. For instance, these delectable berries contain high levels of vitamin K, which plays a significant role in heart health. The vitamin is also essential for blood clotting and bone health. They also boast high amounts of vitamin C, potassium, and manganese, all of which help multiple body systems to function properly.
In addition to the many vitamins and minerals they contain, blueberries are also a low calorie, fat-free food, and are high in fibre. However, blueberries have other anti-obesity properties as well. For example, they have high levels of anthocyanins, which enhance the breakdown of fat and boost your metabolism.
In addition, because they are high in fibre, they lead to a feeling of fullness, thus eliminating sugar fluctuations and reducing carbohydrate cravings.
The aforementioned anthocyanins in blueberries also contribute to good vision and overall eye health. For instance, an anthocyanin called cyanidin-3 glucoside, which is found in blueberries, has been proven to hasten retinal recovery and light-induced retinal damage. It has also been shown to slow retinal degeneration in diabetic patients.
A Healthier Heart
Blueberries are also a great choice if a healthier heart is your goal, since they contain no cholesterol or saturated fat. Additionally, the high level of antioxidants found in blueberries helps to counteract the effects of LDL–bad–cholesterol. In one study, a 50g serving of blueberries each day for two months reduced LDL levels in patients by over 25 percent.
Due to their antioxidant properties, blueberries can help fight abnormal cell division in the human body. Antioxidants have been proven to reduce the presence of free radicals, and lower oxidative stress. Both oxidative stress and free radicals are linked to tumour development and DNA damage, so the humble blueberry is actually a cancer-fighting food.
An outstanding number of anti-inflammatory properties are found in blueberries, including flavonoids and phenolic acids. These properties have been proven to reduce oxidative stress when consumed in high enough volumes. Blueberries are full of these properties, and therefore are the easiest way to consume these substances and enjoy the anti-inflammatory results.
In animal studies, blueberries have been shown to protect brain function and improve neuronal signalling. This tasty fruit has also been linked to improving cognitive function in older adults, by promoting perfusion and activation in the brain. Blueberries have also been proven to prevent or slow neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.
In a small 2020 study, elderly adults with early-onset cognitive decline consumed blueberries on a daily basis for 12 weeks while a control group was given a placebo drink. At the end of the study, participants who consumed the blueberries enjoyed a distinct decrease in depressive symptoms, as well as significant memory improvement.
Lower Blood Pressure
Studies have proven that blueberries help reduce blood pressure when consumed on a regular basis. In a 2019 study, the blood pressure of participants who consumed a 200 gram blueberry smoothie each day for one month was reduced by 8 mmHg. In a similar Dutch study, postmenopausal women with high blood pressure saw a significant decrease in their numbers after consuming 20 grams of freeze-dried blueberry powder each day for two months.
Blueberries can help certain individuals with insulin resistance, including those with type 2–also called adult onset–diabetes. Insulin resistance occurs when excessive insulin is produced by the pancreas, causing cells to stop properly responding to the hormone. The anthocyanins in blueberries have been proven to reduce insulin sensitivity and help glucose levels stay in the recommended range.
Blueberries contain prebiotics, a type of dietary fibre that is essential to gut health. Prebiotics are essentially insoluble carbohydrates that support healthy bacteria in the digestive tract. When healthy bacteria flourishes, it crowds out the harmful type and reduces inflammation in both the large and small intestine, which ultimately boosts immune health.
Picking Blueberries in British Columbia
Now you probably know more than you ever thought you would about blueberries, except where to pick them. Below, we’ve compiled a list of some of BC’s best blueberry picking farms where you can harvest your own fresh berries:
Blueberry Picking Langley, BC
This great farm has friendly owners, a laid back atmosphere, and delicious berry harvests you can always count on.
This local family farm has been in existence since 1887, and is one of the area’s mainstay destinations for great blueberry picking.
This wonderful, family-run farm is dedicated to sustainability, and its blueberry fields are never sprayed with chemicals. They are even hand weeded!
Serving the community since 1974, this beautiful farm also boasts a bakery, waffle bar, garden market, and estate winery.
Blueberry Picking Delta, BC
In operation since 1885, Emma Lea Farms is a great berry picking destination, and also features a centuries-old wooden bridge and summertime farmer’s market.
Proud to make a contribution to the community, the owners of Best Choice Blueberry Farm welcome everyone to their U-Pick season.
Blueberry Picking Abbotsford, BC
Top quality and great taste keeps patrons coming back to visit Blueberry Junction each year for fresh, ripe blueberries.
Bumble Barry Farms welcomes you to roam through clean, well-maintained rows of beautiful fruit, where you may see a few of the hard-at-work bumblebees from which the farm takes its name!
Blueberry Picking Chilliwack, BC
If fresh, locally grown BC blueberries are what you’re looking for, you couldn’t go wrong at Chilliwack’s Prairie Fruit Farm.
The friendly staff at this blueberry farm will clue you into the best picking spots and do everything to make your excursion enjoyable.
Blueberry Picking Pitt Meadows, BC
For a fun and relaxing blueberry picking outing, visit Doremi Blueberry Farms to load your baskets with plump, ripe berries.
This beautiful eleven-acre farm offers multiple varieties of blueberries that can be picked any time during the BC Blueberry season.