You know it’s really summer when the blackberries are ripe. If you come across a briar patch this month, you can often gather enough berries for a pie or cobbler.
If you can’t pick blackberries through your neighbor’s fence, it’s best to buy them from your farmers market or produce store where they are sold in open containers. When you see blackberries in plastic boxes known as clamshells, they are most often Alpine Blacks, a large commercial variety that darkens before it’s ripe. Organic farms in and around Watsonville such as Ella Bella, Blue Moon, and Martinez Farms all grow traditional varieties, and only pick them once they’re ripe. At the market, here’s how to proceed.
>Look closely at the blackberries—if they are still red, even partially, instead of a deep, dark purple, they aren’t ripe.
>Taste a berry if you can—this will tell you the most about its quality.
>Eat blackberries quickly, within a day, since they damage easily.
>Avoid refrigerating blackberries if you can, but if you aren’t planning on eating or using your berries immediately, place them on a paper towel–lined pan or plate in a single layer, and store in the fridge.
>They will last longer, up to four days, if you sprinkle them lightly with sugar, make sure they are in an airtight container, and store in the fridge.
>Wash blackberries gently by submerging in a bowl of cool, still water.
>To freeze blackberries, place them in a single layer, not touching, on a waxed paper–lined cookie sheet, and freeze. Once frozen, store them in plastic bags or containers.