Blueberries are plentiful, affordable and can be eaten year-round. Picking your own is an easy, fun way to entertain the kids.

Blueberries are the perfect fruit for a lazy summer day. Pop them in your mouth by the handful or savor each one. They require no slicing, pitting, coring or peeling.


What’s more, they’re as flavorful in winter as in summer, since they’re easy to freeze. Some people stock their freezer so they can eat the berries plain year-round or in scones, pancakes, pies, cakes, crisps, muffins and jams.


“I have customers who pick 40 or 50 pounds a summer,” said John Kopacz, owner of Webster Cranberry in Norwell, which has 5 acres of pick-your-own blueberries that ripen at different times.


In recent years, growers have seen an increase in people coming to pick because of the berries’ health benefits and cost savings, said farm owners.


“Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits and people are aware of that,” said Patricia Concree, who owns The Blueberry Farm in Hanson with her husband, Jack. “More people are stocking up so they can have berries in the winter.”


In addition to their antioxidants and high fiber content, blueberries have no fat or cholesterol and only 84 calories per cup.


Despite a wet and cool summer, the blueberries are thriving, although they are about a week later than last summer.


“The crop is excellent, even though it’s slower,” said Jack Concree, who has five high bush varieties on 51/2 acres.


At The Blueberry Farm, pickers receive a blue tin can with a cushioned rope, which allows them to hang the can around their neck and pick with two hands. The can holds about 31/2 quarts. They also get instructions on proper refrigeration and freezing.


In the refrigerator, the berries should be stored in a plastic container so they stay dry. To freeze berries, lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, place in freezer for half an hour until they’re hard and then package them in plastic bags.


“You want them dry because a wet berry will mush up and get moldy,” Jack Concree said.


Pat Concree tries out recipes recommended by family, friends and pickers and chooses the best six for the recipe flier she passes out.


“I pick recipes that are easy and inexpensive to make that I think the public will like,” said Concree, who sometimes eats blueberries at every meal: in pancakes and scones for breakfast, with yogurt for lunch, and cake after dinner.


Berries are easy to pick. When ripe, they fall off the branch with a light finger twist. Look for berries that are fully blue, unless you want a tarter berry for baking. These will have some red coloring.


“The blue ones will fall right into your hand if you twirl your fingers around them,” Jack Concree said.


With a variety of ripening times, the picking season typically lasts from mid-July through August or into early September.


“Some customers say the early varieties taste better than the later ones, but I find there isn’t much difference,” said Carlton Smith, who owns C.N. Smith Farm in East Bridgewater with his siblings.


Pick-your-own berries are less expensive than retail ones, although prices vary. At Webster Cranberry, pickers pay $4 a container, which can hold up to 2 pounds. At The Blueberry Farm, berries are $2.25 a pound. C.N. Smith Farm charges $3.20 a pound, with a 3-pound minimum.


And if you want free berries, you can find native ones on hilltops in the Blue Hills Reservation, particularly Great Blue, Buck and Hancock Hills, said park ranger Maggi Brown.


“Low bush berries are fairly common and grow along the trail edge,” Brown said. “Native berries are smaller, but ounce-for-ounce I think they have more flavor.”


However, pick only if you’re absolutely sure it’s a blueberry, since similar looking berries can make you sick.


“Identifying berries can be tricky,” she cautioned. “The most important thing is that people know what they’re eating.”


Pick-your-own farms


The Blueberry Farm, 698 West Washington St., Hanson, 781-447-1584


The Blueberry Patch, 155 Glen Charlie Road, East Wareham, 508- 295-9289


C.N. Smith Farm, 325 South St., E. Bridgewater, 508- 378-2270


Tree-Berry Farm, Route 123, Scituate, 781-545-7750


Ward’s Berry Farm, 614 South Main St., Sharon, 781-784-3600


Webster Cranberry, 292 Cross St., Norwell, 781-659-1599.


Always call to make sure the fields are open. For more information, go to www.pickyourown.org or www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/blueberries.


The Patriot Ledger