Raspberries are delicate and require careful handling when picking to ensure an effective harvest. Summer-bearing raspberries, including most varieties of black or purple raspberries, hit their peak of ripeness in June and July. Ever-bearing raspberries start putting out ripe fruits in July and keep producing through frost. Monitor the planting after petals fall and fruit set to catch the earliest-ripening berries.
Dress for Raspberry Picking
As a bramble plant, most natural raspberries have sharp thorns. Wear long a long-sleeved shirt and long pants to avoid scratches, and be prepared for a scratch or two on your hands since gloves impede picking. Solid shoes will protect your toes from the plants, but be careful not to damage raspberry suckers that may emerge from near the base of the vine.
Check for Ripeness
Raspberries don’t ripen off the plant, so pick only raspberries that are deep or bright shade of red, yellow or purple depending on the variety. Ripe black raspberries are a nearly-black shade of purple with a white haze between the drupes. Pinkish or green berries, or red berries in black raspberry varieties, will be tart or hard. Ripe raspberries separate easily from the vine, leaving the core behind. If you have to fight for a raspberry, it isn’t ready yet.
Raspberry Harvesting Technique
To avoid dropping the berries on the ground, cup your hand under the cluster of berries, then gently nudge the berries off with your thumb and forefinger so they roll into your hand. The berry core, a cone-shaped white protuberance, should stay behind on the plant. Pick three or four berries at a time, then gently place the berries into the picking container. With larger clusters, you can suspend the entire cluster over the picking container and drop the raspberries directly into the container. Just be sure not to drop the berries more than a couple of inches.
The largest and juiciest raspberries grow under leaves and in the interior of the plant. Gently lift the canes and look at the plant from several angles, including below, to find and pick all the best raspberries.
Use a food-grade container to hold the raspberries while you harvest. Food grade plastic buckets with handles are convenient. Plastic food storage containers, metal pans, dish pans or even a milk jug with a corner cut out make good picking containers.
When harvesting raspberries, never pile them more than three berries thick and don’t cram them into a container. The weight of the top berries crush the ripe raspberries at the bottom of the container, even without being packed. If picking into a smaller container, empty the raspberries into a larger, shallow pan periodically. Make sure the pan is in the shade.
While a raspberry bramble is producing, pick every 2 to 3 days for optimal harvest. At the peak of production, you can harvest every day.
Cool raspberries immediately after picking. Even in the refrigerator, raspberries won’t last more than a day or two without noticeable deterioration.