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Copyright:  Mike Sillett


1. Intro
2. Equipment
3. Procedure

Close up photo of a 5 gallon bucket of highbush blueberries and the umbrella used to catch them

1. Intro

Every year in mid July I head to a Highbush Blueberry patch in northern Pennsylvania. It comprises about 50 to 75 acres in the middle of nowhere. Very quiet. Very nice. Very secluded. Just a little creek gurgling and an occasional turkey cackling.
Sometimes I really enjoy the day picking the blueberries as any normal person does. However, as the blueberries start to get to the point where most of them on the bunch are ripe, rather than just a couple here and there, it is time to stock up for the year.
You can tell they are ready for 'mass gathering' when some of the blueberries near the hand that you use for picking start to fall off more often. It is this tendency to drop easily that you can take advantage of.

When the blueberry bunches contain berries where most of them in the bunch are ripe, say approximately 80 percent, you can grab the whole bunch OR you can 'shake them' off.
It is not unusual under the correct conditions to 'shake off' 5 gallons of blueberries in one hour. Mostly though, when I take my time, I will average 5 gallons in about 1 1/2 hours.
If I get picky I will get 5 gallons in 2 hours. Any of the three are very good results.

How do I do it you ask?
Read on.

2. Equipment

You'll need a large sturdy umbrella. A golf umbrella works great. The bigger the better.

One 5 gallon bucket and lid.

Afro-pick ( optional ). Use this if you want to be more selective and pick approximately 5 gallons in 2 1/2 hours.

photo showing a 5 gallon bucket, a large golf umbrella and an Afro-pick.

I start with a 5 gallon bucket & lid and a golf umbrella. Sometimes I also take along an Afro-pick.

3. Procedure

As you walk through the bushes take special note of those that are really loaded up with ripe blueberries. We want those bushes that have a high percentage of ripeness and/or bunches which have mostly ripe berries in the bunch.
Also we want to find those bushes that have several upright branches that can be gathered together into a group.

Photo of the blueberry bush with the vast majority ripe.

Here is a prime candidate. There are actually 4 or 5 bushes very close together which are all loaded with ripe berries.

Open your umbrella and turn it upside down near the bush or group of bushes.

Photo of the umbrella placed upside-down near a bush with many ripe blueberries

The umbrella is placed in a strategic position where there are several bushes all of which have several branches loaded with ripe blueberries.

Gather several of the branches together and bend over the umbrella. The more branches gathered together the faster you will reap.

Close up photo of a bunch of highbush blueberry bush branches bent over the topsy-turvy umbrella

The branches are gathered together into slightly loose bundles and bent over the umbrella.

Shake the branches. Move them back and forth and shake again. Rearrange the bundle of branches and shake again. In a minute or two of this activity you will be surprised how many blueberries will be in the umbrella.

Close up photo of a bunch of highbush blueberries caught in an upside-down umbrella

Here is slightly more than a quart of blueberries from three separate groups of bundled branches, about 3 or 4 minutes of shaking.

All you need to do now is reach in and remove the branches, leaves and other detritus you do not want and then tip the umbrella so as to pour all the blueberries into your 5 gallon bucket.
Then move on to the next bush( es ) that has/have what you are looking for and do it again. If you work quickly you can fill a 5 gallon bucket in an hour. If you take your time you can fill a 5 gallon bucket in two hours.

Close up photo of a 5 gallon bucket of wild highbush blueberries.

This 5 gallon bucket was completed in slightly less than 1 hour. The berries were mostly all ripe and ready to be 'shaken'.

Even if you do not want to worry about how many blueberries you pick and just want to pick like normal the upside-down umbrella placed under where you are picking will help by catching any that fall as you pick.
Or you can just pick and let them fall into the umbrella.

The Afro-Pic - A/K/A - Angel Food cake Cutter is also an option.
Use it like a handrake after the branches are bent over. If you do not want to use the 'shake them off' method the Afro-Pic works great. Just rake across the bush in areas where there are blueberries you want and knock them off into the upside-down umbrella. You won't get 5 gallons in an hour but you will sure get more that way than the regular way and those you knock off will have less litter to clean up later.

Close up photo of an Afro-Pic ( some people call it a Angel Food Cake Cutter ).

When you get home ( unless you know where there is a fresh water source nearby ) get another five gallon bucket, add cold water until half full then dump half of the blueberries from your stash into the bucket with the water. Then add water to the bucket which is now only half full with blueberries until the water almost runs over the rim of the bucket. You want both buckets with water right up to the rim.

With your hands reach into the water and swish around and stir up the blueberries. There will be a lot of floating debris to get rid of. Do both half buckets and get rid of the floatsam. Then comes the part where you clean out the junk you don't want such as unripe berries, bugs, clumps of matter that are in the water, etc.

As you swish them about you can then remove handfuls of cleaned blueberries and add them to a strainer.

How To Pick 5 Gallons Of Highbush Blueberries In One Hour

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