Berry Picking: Boysenberries, Currants And Acai
Before you begin picking boysenberries, currants and acai, it helps to know a little about each berry and its characteristics.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Rachel Klein adds, "Berry Picking tools can either be made or bought online and can seriously cut down on the time it takes to harvest from an abundant producer."
Wait for Ripening - You'll know your boysenberries are ripe when they begin to resemble blackberries. You should wait until the berries turn dark purple to black before you attempt to pick them. Harvest time generally runs between July and August.
When the berries are at their ripest, they'll nearly fall off of the cores, and require very little effort to remove from the cane.
TIP: Rachel says, "Don't try to make space in your full berry container by packing your berries down, or you will bruise and damage the fruit at the bottom."
Prepare for Picking - Thornless varieties of boysenberry make picking much simpler and quicker. However, most boysenberry canes have prickly thorns. Plan ahead by wearing good pruning gloves when harvesting the bushes. Be sure the gloves extend back over your wrists, since harvesting boysenberries requires you to push canes aside and reach back into the bushes.
Get a berry picking bucket with a neck strap, or create one yourself with a small container and a nylon cord. Another option is to cut a milk jug down so that you retain the handle but create an opening to drop berries into the container. Thread a belt through the handle and attach it to your waist for an easy, hands-free container.
Harvest Carefully - Begin at the outside of the bush and pick all of the visible dark purple berries. Ripe berries will drop as you push the canes aside, reaching into the center of the bush. Clear the outside of ripe berries first, then work you way to the center of the canes by pushing them aside with your gloves.
Leave any white or red berries and return every few days to pick them as they ripen. A mature bush should produce eight to ten pounds of berries each year.
TIP: Rachel suggests, "As you pick your boysenberries, mark which canes you are harvesting from. These canes will not produce berries again and should be pruned off in the fall."
Prepare for Harvest - You need to think about harvesting far in advance of the actual time to harvest. In fact, when you plant the bushes, keep in mind that they will reach heights of up to 6 feet if left unpruned.
If this is higher than you can comfortably reach to harvest berries,construct or install a trellis. As the bush grows, tie it to the trellis so that you can control how high you need to reach, as well as controlling the look of the bush. It can grow to an extremely large size. Black Currants ripen from midsummer onwards. Anywhere from three to ten pounds of berries can be picked off of a single bush.
Allow Time to Harvest - The tart black currant berry is very small, you need to allow enough time for a meticulous task. The bushes don't have thorns, but a tight fitting, thin cotton glove is recommended to protect your hands. If the bushes are tied to a trellis, you will have an easier time reaching ripe berries, which are a dark purple or black in color.
TIP: Rachel adds, "Many of these small berries can be knocked off the bush during harvest. And, as dark as they are, they can be very difficult to spot on the ground. Spread a tablecloth or sheet under your bush before you begin to pick."
Remove the berries from the bush gently, as they can bruise easily. Have small containers ready for the berries, and place them out of the sun as you pick.
TIP: Rachel suggests, "If the berries within a clump have all ripened, consider cutting off the stem, or 'strig' and moving the cluster to a table or comfortable spot to remove each small berry from the stem."
The acai berry is known as a super food for all its healthy properties. However, it is difficult to get the fruit fresh, since the only place it grows naturally is in Brazil.
Cultivating Acai Palm - Since the acai berry is grown mostly in tropical Brazil, locating a farm with acai berries for picking or cultivating your own acai palms is the first step in harvesting.
If you wish to cultivate your own palms, the climate in your area should resemble the Brazilian rain forest (such as the climate in southern Florida), or you should have a greenhouse. The temperature should not dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The acai is a palm tree, and doesn’t produce berries until they are at least 5 to 6 feet tall. Most varieties don’t bear fruit until they are 7 to 8 feet tall. You can control their height by keeping the trees in pots rather than planting them in the ground where the roots can spread. Growers recommend a minimum height of 10 to 12 feet for berries.
The Harvest - Acai berries grow in small bunches with more than 700 berries on each branch when the tree is bearing. A tree should begin to produce fruit at four years of age. In a greenhouse, one tree may product fruit year round. In sub-tropical climates, harvest in mid-fall.
Using a ladder, scaffolding or lift, depending on the height of the palm, cut the berries down from the palm. Use a large, “hands-free” bucket to gather the berries. Collect them in a cool spot frequently during harvest.
Preserve Berries Quickly - The acai berry deteriorates very rapidly once it is removed from the tree. Quickly freeze or process the berries once they are picked. The berries can be frozen whole, pulped, or as juice. There is a large seed and very little pulp in each berry, so it takes some time to pick enough to be helpful.
TIP: Rachel advises, "To keep your berries from sticking together during freezing and storage, spread them in one layer on a baking sheet or large tray. Freeze until solid, and then condense into a plastic bag."