PHOTO: Zach Loeks
Zach Loeks
July 31, 2020

Raspberries are nutrient-packed berries that come in many colors. You can find raspberries in yellow, red, purple, black and more.

Their canes can be upright or trailing. They ripen around mid-summer in Ontario, and some varieties can yield again in the fall.

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Picking raspberries is a subtle art. The following tips are helpful to make sure your harvests are bountiful and enjoyable. Proper picking can ensure you maximize your raspberry patch for quantity, quality and efficiency.


Tip #1: Start to Harvest When the Very First Berries Begin to Ripen

Harvesting early allows you to gain familiarity with this season’s productivity. You are forecasting the yield and helping to plan how much time and supplies are needed to harvest your patch.

Also, by beginning the harvest as soon as the first berries ripen, you ensure no berries will overripen and spoil.


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Tip #2: Pick Your Patch Thoroughly

Harvest raspberries by making complete sweeps through the patch.

Being organized about harvesting the entire patch means harvesting the upper, lower and middle canes, and moving systematically from one side to the other on both the left- and right-hand sides.

Harvesting with a friend or colleague is a great way to manage both sides.

harvesting raspberries harvest raspberry
Zach Loeks

Tip #3: Look Under the Leaves

Many fruits hide underneath the foliage, and raspberries are certainly guilty of tucking many of the biggest clusters below the leaves.

Lift canes with your left hand to reveal and reach those clusters beneath. Kneel and gets a kid’s eye view of the raspberry patch to harvest many hidden gems.

Tip #4: Leave No Raspberry Behind

The quality of your patch and future harvests depends on properly harvesting all ripe raspberries. If you leave raspberries on the canes unharvested, they will:

  • become over mature
  • soften
  • rot
  • house beetles, worms and other bugs

This decay and pestilence will spread to good berries in the same cluster. Raspberries ripen in clusters in succession, so you want to keep your clusters clean.


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Tip #5: Leave the Patch Better Than You Found It

While harvesting, there will be times when you need to move canes aside to get at the center of the patch, or you may need to lift a cane to harvest underneath.

You can improve the harvestability of your raspberry patch for future harvest days by arranging the canes to improve similar harvest patterns.

Tuck one cane over an adjacent cane to let light in and reveal those unripe berries on the clusters beneath. You can also improve the path each time for harvest flow by pressing down weeds, adding some chip mulch where needed, and generally opening things up.

harvesting raspberries harvest raspberry
Zach Loeks

Tip #6: Harvest Berries Into Boxes, in Boxes, in Boxes

Berries get crushed by their own weight. The best way to harvest berries on most scales is by looping the handle of a 3-litre harvest basket (what peaches are sold in) into the loop of your belt.

Into this basket place two small cardboard or plastic pint boxes (what raspberries are sold in at farmers markets). This leaves your hands free to pick and ensures your berries are safe in the pint boxes.

When you fill the boxes, place them into a large cardboard box, Rubbermaid tote or harvest crate. You can even use commercial bagel trays.

Tip #7: Keep Those Berries in the Shade

When you are harvesting, there may be sun in your eyes, on your back and on the berries.

But once you fill your pints and move them to the larger harvest crate, that crate better be in the shade! You may even want to put a Rubbermaid lid over it to further protect it from sun.


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Tip #8: Have a Plan for Your Harvest

It is best to know what you are doing with your harvest before you bring it in.

Are you eating raspberries fresh after washing in a bowl and straining the water and debris out? Do you want to can them, freeze them or make pie?

If you have a decent-sized berry patch (25-50 feet), you can gain a sizable yield (especially if you follow these tips), and you will need fridge space to keep them fresh or a plan to preserve them as soon as possible.

This is because raspberries are actually a cluster of many small berries all together. There is a lot of surface area that is vulnerable to rot.

Tip #9: Store Them Right

Raspberries can be stored in an open pint box in a dehumidified fridge for a few days. If you want to store them longer, you’ll need to bring the temperature down, if possible.

Otherwise, freeze them in freezer-grade Ziploc bags or Tupperware. If the berries are hot from the field, make sure to hydro cool them by immersing them in cold water for five minutes. For the best freezing results, place the berries on a cookie tray in a freezer for an hour, then funnel them into your freezer bags.

Or make jelly, pie or some other delicious food!

I hope you enjoy your summer harvests,

Zach

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