We encourage you to bring your own containers for picking. Or alternatively, we welcome you to use our containers in the field for picking, then transfer the berries to your own containers to take home.
Recommendations for containers:
No bags: Bags do not work well as they crush the berries. Long & low containers work well for blackberries. Blackberries crush easily if you pile them too high. For blueberries, a bucket no bigger than 2 gallons works well. Containers deeper than 2 gallons will crush the blueberries.
Berry picker Amy Fendley- pictured left - is dressed appropriately for this hot weather. A long sleeve loose fitting cotton shirt, long pants, a floppy hat to shade her face and good shoes. She is also carrying water with her into the field. The cotton absorbs the sweat where it evaporates and keeps her cool. If you do not keep hydrated your body temperature can get too high very quickly and be very harmful. Symptoms, in addition to dizziness and feeling bad, can be failing to sweat or excessive sweating. If you experience any of these symptons, seek shade, use wet towels or anything you can to get your body temperature down. Ice on neck, arm pits, forehead. Get help!- even using your cell phone to call the staff on the porch to come get you!
Please no sandals or flip flops. Please wear shoes with good tread for walking around the farm. The terrain is uneven, sometimes steep, and, especially in the blackberry fields, sometimes even very steep.
Berries are living beings. They will continue to carry on respiration which uses energy (sugar). Therefore, it is important to preserve the quality of fresh picked berries that refrigerate just as soon as you get them home. Except for figs, berries are not climacteric- meaning they do not get sweeter after picking (like a peach or banana). If you are traveling and are going to be stopping for a bite to eat we recommend a cooler with an ice pack. Thirty minutes to an hour in a car unprotected from the heat can leave you with much lower quality berries.
Table grapes are harvested in bunches. You do not pick single berries. The bunch must be cut off from the main stem. If it is torn off it will make an infection court (create an open wound on the plant) for Botryosphaeria and Eutypa fungi which can cause death of the cordon [which is the main arm supported by the wire] or even the whole vine.
This means that if you want to harvest these types of grapes you need to bring snippers. Snippers with pointed noses are best and so we do not allow children to pick grapes. We do not want them running with tools or cutting their own fingers. They can go with you into the grape fields and hold the bucket. Note that it will take two hands to cut off a bunch of grapes-one to hold the bunch and one to operate the snippers.
The Happy Berry has four varieties of seedless concord table grapes: Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. How do you know when they are ripe? Venus, Mars, and Jupiter turn dark blue. Look for bunches with uniform dark blue color. If there is a red tinge they are not ready but will be in a few days. Be aware that the bunches on a vine do not ripen all at once- so you walk along looking for the dark blue bunches. Saturn will be a dark red, but the same guidelines apply.
We have taken Neptune out. It was the yellow variety of table grapes. Fruit disease was severe in the Neptune and required more spraying than we were comfortable with.
That means they will continue to ripen after they are picked - just like bananas. But first- you must recognize when they have reached the point of ripening from which, if picked, they will continue to ripen. In figs, this point of ripening is marked by the fruit pedicel -or stem- which can be very short, about ¼ inch or less. If you pick a fig when the stem is straight the fig will not ripen any further if picked. Once the stem starts to bend, the fig is ripe, and it will continue to ripen after it has been picked. Usually the fruit will also begin to bend too. Only in varieties that have a very short stem will this be difficult to see.
At the next stage of ripening in the fig, you will see a change in color which at first is a yellow cast and in some varieties like Brown Turkey they will turn shades of brown. In the final stage of ripening figs will develop cracks in the skin. At this point they are very very sweet and are oozing sugar. The bees love the sugar and start lapping it up making a wound which oozes more sugar and before you know it there is a hole that looks like a bird pecked the fig. Due to the bees, when picking very ripe figs I always give it a little bump to scare any bees away before I pick.
You should try to pick the fig with the stem on it. If you tear the stem off the life of the fig in the refrigerator is shortened greatly. Figs are best used the day you pick or in just a day or so and you should get them in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Picked properly they will even ripen in the refrigerator. That is why you rarely see true southern figs in the store. They can not control the shelf life.
Blueberries turn blue before they are ripe. A cluster of blueberries will have green, turning berries obviously not ready, some that are blue but red on the bottom and finally those that are blue and plump. To pick the ripe blueberries requires a combination of eye and touch. Most of the practiced pickers take a small quart basket, hold it under the cluster with one hand and with the other hand tickle the plump ones off with your fingers. So how do you know when it is plump? We expect you to taste the berries so that you can coordinate your eyes, fingers and taste buds. The coordination is important because blueberries do not ripen after picking. Of course, if you feel that you have tasted too many you can donate to the sin bucket under the bell near the porch. And, if you want, you can make two clangs of the bell to acknowledge your sins.
Blackberries first turn from green to red and may be red for one or more days. They then turn shiny black. They can be picked at this stage but they will be a little tart. They continue to ripen on the vine and the shiny appearance declines. At this point sugar has increased. Once they are dull black they are just before falling off. They are at there sweetest at this point but if you bump the vine they will fall off. The rule if you have to tug on the berry to get it off the vine....it is not ready...it should come off reasonably easily. So what is reasonably easy? We expect you to taste to get your eyes, taste buds and the tug factor with your fingers coordinated. Of course, if you feel guilty because you were tasting a little heavy you can donate to the sin bucket. The proceeds of the sin bucket will go to a local charity. Just like with blueberries, once blackberries have been picked, they stop ripening.
You pick muscadines one at a time UNNLIKE bunch grapes suchas seedless concords or Jacques. Muscadines are NOT climacteric- which means they will not ripen after they are picked. If you pick them green or sour they will remain green and sour. You pick Muscadines one berry at a time. You do not pick clusters. The best way to pick a muscadine, bronze or black, is by softness. You need to look at the grape and judge by the color if it needs to be felt. Then feel the grape ... if it is hard do not pick it. If you think it is a little soft the next step is to do a test eating. Is it sweet??? is the skin tender??? Repeat this process until you learn by feel what is a ripe muscadine grape. If you look at the end of the rows you can see the names of the varieties in each row. The pollinators insects of muscadines, tiny green bees, move up and down rows and do not move across rows so that is the reason for two varieties in each row. The bottom line is- if you are using color to decide whether or not to feel a berry you have to associate the color with the variety. This is not as difficult as it sounds... after a little bit you will recognize that this vine is a little more bronze or this is has a little pink or this is a little more yellow so you know when to feel the grape. In no time at all you will become an experienced muscadine picker and with such big berries the bucket is fill very quickly.