Several local farmers allow residents to come and pick berries right off the bushes:
7 Springs Farm
Owned by Rodney Petty, this farm opened about two years ago. Petty grows a variety of crops, including blueberries, which he sells for $3.50 a pint. Petty says he tries to make the gathering process a family affair, by offering something to drink to his customers, and allowing children to feed the baby goats or other animals on his farm so they can learn what goes into taking care of animals. Open 7 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. 588 Seven Springs Road, Wellington, 256-473-9191.
Bennett’s Blueberry Farm
The berries at Bennett’s won’t be ripe till the end of the month, but it looks to be a good crop. Check the website for updates. You can pick your own, or they’ll pick for you. The farm will be open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. 535 Ellie’s Lane, Anniston, 256-236-6410, www.bennettsblueberryfarm.com.
Bill & Faye Graham
Bill Graham says his blueberries should be ready for picking by June 18 or 19. He asks that customers bring their own containers for gathering, if possible. Graham charges $8 a gallon, and typically he is open from sun up to sun down daily. 3015 Alabama Highway 204, Jacksonville, 256-435-1125.
Jerry and Sheila Gilbert allow customers to pick berries for $7 a gallon. Sheila Gilbert estimated that berries should be ready for picking by June 20. They do provide buckets for picking, but ask that customers bring their own materials to carry the berries home. Open daily from sun up to sun down.1281 Dogwood Lane, Jacksonville, 256-435-4247.
Craft Blueberry Farm
The farm, owned by Randall and Teresa Craft, will start selling blueberries June 19. The Crafts charge $6 a gallon if visitors pick their own blueberries or $14 a gallon if they want to buy them already picked. Teresa Craft said they provide buckets to pick with and put the berries into freezer bags after weighing them. The farm is open from 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday. 4060 Eastaboga Road, Talladega, 256-362-7350, www.craftsblueberryfarm.net.
Tips for picking
Teresa Craft, of Craft Blueberry Farm in Talladega, suggests pickers arrive early to beat the heat.
“There’s not a lot of air circulating in the rows on the blueberry farm,” she said. “It’s really hot.”
Another thing to keep in mind, Craft said, is that blueberries are unlike other fruits. They won’t continue to ripen after they’ve been picked. “It’s not like a green tomato that you can sit in front of the window and let it ripen,” she said. “You need to make sure you’re picking them ripe.”
The best way to tell if they are ripe is by tasting one. A light white dusting over the berries indicates they are ready to be picked, she said.
Don’t wash the blueberries before freezing them because it will make the skin quite tough, she added.
Craft advised pickers to wear sunscreen, bug spray and prepare however they would for spending extended amounts of time outdoors. She suggested customers wear a belt, so they can attach their buckets to their waists and pick with two hands.
“And bring a buddy to pick with,” she said. “It goes faster.”