Jams, jellies, pies and desserts baked with homegrown blackberries will be filled with fresh-picked flavor as the fruit ripens for picking. Blackberry harvest season started in late June and extends to late August.

"The exact time to harvest blackberries varies by cultivar, and thorny blackberries normally ripen earlier than thornless types," said Kansas State University Research and Extension horticulturalist Ward Upham. "There are some general guidelines to keep in mind when harvesting blackberries."

Fruit color and ease of separation are two major characteristics determining maturity for harvest. Upham said picking blackberries too early will sacrifice berry size and flavor.

"Blackberries usually develop a dull, black color with plump, juicy fruitlets as they ripen," he said. "The berries soften and produce the characteristic flavor."

Full color often develops before the berries separate easily. Pick the berries by gently lifting the berry with the thumb and fingers.

"The receptacle, or center part of the fruit, remains in the fruit when blackberries are harvested, unlike raspberries which leave the receptacle on the bush," Upham said.

When possible, avoid harvesting when berries are wet.

"Take care not to crush the berries or expose them to the hot sun," he said. "They'll probably need picking every second or third day."

Cool the berries immediately after harvest to extend shelf life. Keep them refrigerated under high relative humidity and use within three to five days.

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