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How to Wash and Clean Blackberries After Picking

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Marie is a keen gardener and loves to forage for wild berries in the fall. She also loves to grow her own food.

Do you know how to properly clean blackberries after picking? The tricky part is cleaning them well without ruining them!

Do you know how to properly clean blackberries after picking? The tricky part is cleaning them well without ruining them!

We're very lucky to have a wonderful, big blackberry bush right at the end of our backyard that provides food for us—as well as for our visiting garden birds who love to share and indulge in our abundant crop of plump, sweet and juicy berries.

Every year we get a bumper harvest of these sweet and slightly tangy berries. We use them to make fruit pies, crisps, smoothies, ice cream, cake and cookie icing and frosting, fruit salads and juice. We also enjoy eating them plain, just as they are.

There are always so many blackberries that we end up freezing some of them in freezer bags, which gives us a great supply to dip into throughout the year.

Since blackberries are prone to breaking easily once they are fully ripe and bursting with juice, they're quite fragile. This makes them difficult to clean well because if you wash them too vigorously they'll all break apart and be ruined.

But fret not. I'm here to show you how to clean your berries properly without reducing them to a mush that no one will want to eat.

Learn how to get worms and bugs out of blackberries by carefully washing them.

Learn how to get worms and bugs out of blackberries by carefully washing them.

How to Get Worms and Bugs Out of Blackberries

The big problem with wild or homegrown blackberries is that there are always a number of really teeny tiny bugs, worm-like creatures and caterpillars that hide out in these fruits. You probably don't want to be eating these!

Even more reason for these fruits to be getting a jolly good wash and clean. Here are my tips on how to wash them well without spoiling your harvest.

What You'll Need

  • Tap water
  • Large bowl
  • Colander or sieve
  • Paper or cloth towel for drying
  • Vinegar (optional)

What NOT to Do

Some people recommend just rinsing blackberries in a colander or a sieve to clean them. This is definitely not what I recommend because I know from experience that you can still end up with little bugs remaining and hiding in the fruit if you try to wash them this way. For a proper clean what they need is a good soak.

Washing and Cleaning Instructions

  1. Soak: Fill up a large bowl of tepid or cool water and gently place your berries into the bowl. If you put your berries in first, before adding the water, you can end up breaking some with the heavy stream of water coming into the bowl.

    Vinegar option: I normally just use clean water to soak my berries, but some people swear by adding in some vinegar into the water to properly clean and surface-sterilize them. When I do this, I like to use apple cider vinegar, especially an organic version which is said to be a healthy and beneficial addition to our diet. If you choose to do a water-vinegar soak, the proper proportion is 3 parts water to 1 part vinegar.
  2. Swirl and scoop: Once the blackberries are in the bowl, use your hands to gently swirl the berries around. This action should result in many of the bugs and unwanted bits floating to the top of the water. Sometimes I get caterpillars, which look like little worms, floating to the top. You can then easily see these and scoop them out with a little cup or spoon. Normally they are a light color and show up easily against the dark berries.
  3. Drain and soak again: Carefully tip the blackberries into a sieve or a colander, dispose of the water and then repeat the soaking process again. I do a total of three good soaks before draining off in a colander or sieve for the last time. (Yes, it's a bit laborious, but I like to know that my blackberries are nice and clean. After going to all the trouble of picking them, I think it's worth spending time making sure that they are well washed.)
  4. Dry: Leave the berries to air-dry for a while in the colander or sieve. Then spread paper towels or a fabric cloth onto a large tray and carefully tip or scoop out the berries on top of this. The paper or fabric will help to soak up some of the remaining moisture from washing. However, please note that the dark berry juice can stain a fabric towel or cloth, so you may prefer to use disposable paper ones instead.
  5. Sort: The last step for me is sorting. First I like to pick out the mushy and broken berries to use in refreshing drinks and smoothies, since they are going to get mashed up in the blender anyway. Alternatively, I can use mushy ones for frosting and icing for baking. I can also use them for fruit preserves. Then I put aside the nice and whole fresh berries to use in fruit pies or crisps, trifles and fruit salads, whatever I want to make.

Overview: How to Wash and Clean Blackberries

StepActionNotes

1

Soak

Soak in clean water (or 3:1 :: water:vinegar)

2

Swirl and scoop

Swirl the berries with your fingers; scoop out the bugs and debris.

3

Drain and soak again

I do a total of 3 good soaks before the final draining.

4

Dry

Air-dry in colander or sieve; then spread them out on paper towels or cloth.

5

Sort

Separate the mushy berries from the nice whole ones.

How to Freeze Fresh Blackberries

Whatever I do not need immediately will be frozen in bags of around 20 to 30 berries. They freeze very well and, though they are a little mushy once defrosted, they are perfectly good enough to use in recipes such as apple and blackberry crisp crumble, smoothies, homemade ice cream and cupcake frosting throughout the year.

Blackberries make delicious shakes and refreshing drinks mixed and blended up with milk, ice cream or yogurt.

Blackberries make delicious shakes and refreshing drinks mixed and blended up with milk, ice cream or yogurt.

Delicious Blackberry Recipes

© 2013 Marie

What do you like to use blackberries for? Please share your favorite methods of eating this fruit below.

Tonya Bergeron on August 07, 2020:

I wish I would have thought to research this an hour ago! After i rinsed my nearly mashed berries in a colander I noticed dozens and dozens of little white worms crawling inside and all throughout the berries! I couldn't throw them away fast enough! Then I looked into what exactly had been living in my berries and at the end the article casually suggested letting the berries sit in saltwater allowing all of these worms to rise to the top! I can't believe I didn't know this before! Ive picked berries every year since I was young but I had no idea about the worms of how to salvage berries from them... you made it sound so common and logical, I don't think I'm even scared of those little worms anymore... Thank you!

Melody McMorris on August 06, 2020:

Thus far, my favorite recipes for these little gems include 1 large Blackberry Crisp served warm with vanilla ice cream as my thank you (bribe)and to ease any wounds endured. The majority renders syrup, jam and frozen berries, but after reading this article, I see a lot of new tasty ideas!

jasmine reed on August 01, 2020:

we are ,aking a blackberry and apple crumble at the moment! Yum!

Musa on July 30, 2020:

I soaked blackberries overnight to clean but on rinsing, most of the juice had leached into water leaving pinkish (not black) fruit, lacking flavour.

Krissy on July 09, 2020:

How long do you soak the BlackBerrys

Paul McMenamin on August 17, 2018:

Ooh, forgot to mention, blackberry & apple pie, or crumble, with a nice big dollop of vanilla ice cream on top.

I'm salivating thinking of it. Yummy!!

Paul McMenamin on August 17, 2018:

Soak them in salty water overnight and the rise twice. My mum used to do that and it always worked to clean blackberries and get the worms and bugs out. Easy peasy.

Fiona on September 07, 2017:

I make blackberry custard. There are too many pips in them for me, so after I've soaked the berries i pass them through a fine sieve. Then add to custard. Or whizz in ice cold milk.

Alyssa aged11 on August 20, 2017:

I picked some blackberries with my brother and I was wondering how to clean them

Lena Durante from San Francisco Bay Area on May 15, 2017:

Blackberries grow over our fence from the neighbor's yard, but most of them don't ever make them to the kitchen! I just pick them and eat them straight off the vine.

They do bruise easily, so I agree that you should never put them in a colander, because the little holes will cut up and burst your berries! Swirling them in a bowl is definitely the way to go.

Amy on July 29, 2016:

Thank you so very much! My son and I just came home with our first tub of blackberries here in the Netherlands and much to our dismay we discovered an abundance of caterpillars/grubs. Yuck! We are now on our second soak and hope to make some delicious grub-free smoothies later :) Thanks for the information. I was truly about to give this batch to the birds.

Jill on September 13, 2014:

Great article. Thanks so much for the advice!

Marie (author) on November 11, 2013:

@ecogranny: Yes, washing too vigorously is not good with soft berries unless you don't mind them all mashed up of course. Thank you for your visit :)

Marie (author) on November 11, 2013:

@Brite-Ideas: Thanks, especially as they are a favorite fruit of mine!

Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on November 11, 2013:

Excellent tips. I must admit, I have long washed my berries in a colander and always ended up with far too many mashed and broken because I sprayed them so long. Your way is so much smarter! Thank you for sharing this.

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on November 11, 2013:

wow, you are very fortunate to have your own Blackberry Bush - wonderful

Marie (author) on November 11, 2013:

@Joanna14: Mmm, blackberry jam is divine. I like that spread in the middle of large sandwich cakes or baked as a hidden surprise inside cupcakes - best served still warm. Thank you and no it's not always obvious how best to clean certain fruits without destroying them.

Christine Hulme from SE Kent, England on November 11, 2013:

Actually this is very helpful advice, because I know from experience that it's not as easy to do as you might think. Good idea and yes- I love picking my own blackberries and making mostly jam!