Boysenberries are sublime with a unique flavor derived from their parentage, part raspberry sweetness and part wine-kissed tanginess of blackberry. For ultimate flavor, boysenberry harvest occurs when the berries are mature and at their peak. It’s important for growers to know exactly how and when to pick boysenberries to capture their distinctive taste and aroma.
About Picking Boysenberries
At one time, boysenberries were the crème de le crème of berries growing in California. Today, they are a rarity, located after searching high and low at the farmer’s market, if at all. This is because harvesting boysenberries is time-consuming and costly, and because the berries are so delicate that in order to ship them producers ended up picking boysenberries before they were fully ripe, thus, rather tart for eating fresh.
When to Pick Boysenberries
Boysenberries bloom for about a month in the spring and then ripen over the summer. That is, of course, unless there is a rapid increase in temps, in which case the berries ripen more rapidly but, generally, harvesting will run from July to August. As they ripen, berries change from green to pink, then red, darker red, purple, and almost black in color. Prime boysenberry harvest is when the berries are the darkest purple. The ones that are almost black should just be eaten immediately while harvesting boysenberries; they will be delicious, but so soft and delicate that they would just become mush if you tried to place them in a container. A true sacrifice on your part, I am sure.
How to Harvest Boysenberries
Depending upon the variety and size of the bush, boysenberry plants can produce 8 to 10 pounds (4-4.5 kg.) of berries per year. The plant needs the first year of life to grow so it won’t produce berries until its second year. Boysenberries have druplets like a raspberry but a core like a blackberry. You'll need to monitor the color of the druplets to tell you when to harvest the boysenberries. When they are dark purple, it’s time to pick. The berries will not all be ripe at the same time. The harvest will likely last for a month or so. When you pick the berries, a small white plug will come off the plant along with the berry. Be gentle as you remove the berries; they bruise easily. Eat the berries immediately or keep them in the fridge to use later for up to a week. Likewise, you can freeze them for up to four months. If you freeze them, spread them out on a cooking sheet so they don’t freeze together. When the berries are frozen, place them in a freezer bag. Boysenberries also make fabulous preserves.
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Amy Grant has been gardening for 30 years and writing for 15. A professional chef and caterer, Amy's area of expertise is culinary gardening.
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