3 Tips for Handling Berries Post-Harvest

Paper berry baskets full of freshly-picked blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries sit on a display table.

Berries offer bursts of flavor and vibrant colors that delight the senses. But as delightful as they are, anyone who's handled fresh berries knows they're as delicate as they are delicious. For farmers and growers, mastering the art of post-harvest berry handling is crucial to ensuring fresh produce reaches customers in peak condition. Here are three tips for handling berries post-harvest that will help you make the most of your bounty.

Avoid Overhandling the Berries

Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries are very delicate and prone to bruising and shriveling. To keep these berries looking and tasting their best, you need to minimize handling.

Instead of harvesting berries in bulk and sorting them later, sort them in the field. Avoid picking substandard berries and pack the best ones into paper berry baskets or plastic clamshells. This approach ensures that, by the time your customer takes them home, they've only gone through handling once. To protect your customers from pathogens, take precautions to avoid contamination during harvest because washing won’t occur before they reach their destination.

Follow a Prompt Precooling Schedule

Immediately after harvesting, berries continue to respirate, which is a process where they convert their own sugar into energy. While this process is vital for growth, it’s the enemy of freshness post-harvest. Every hour that passes without cooling down these berries accelerates their journey to spoilage.

Precooling, therefore, is a farmer's best friend. The quicker you can halt that respiration, the better. A prompt precooling schedule is essential for extending your berry crop’s shelf life.

Ensure Proper Storage Conditions

After the precooling stage, it’s crucial to maintain a consistent temperature. Raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries prefer a chilly 32 degrees Fahrenheit. But temperature isn't the only factor; humidity plays a pivotal role too. High humidity levels help slow mold growth, prevent the berries from shriveling, and keep them from spoiling too quickly.

Storing the berries in a temperature-controlled environment will keep them plump, juicy, and delectable. You’ll earn a reliable profit from your berry crop and gain repeat customers.

These tips for handling berries post-harvest will ensure that the customer will get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. By avoiding overhandling, adhering to a strict precooling schedule, and maintaining proper storage conditions, farmers can ensure that their berries remain delightful.