Always check in with the staff before going into the fields to pick grapes. Please also always respect the caution tape if you see it in the field. Grapes will visually appear ripe before they are actually sweet and ready to be harvested and we use the caution tape to let you know when areas are not ready yet.
How to Pick Table Grapes
Table grapes are harvested in bunches. You do not pick single berries. The bunch must be cut off from the main stem using snippers. Grapes vines are easily hurt and damaged. If bunches are torn from the vine, it will make an infection court (create an open wound on the plant) for Botryosphaeria and Eutypa fungi which can cause death of the cordon [which is the main arm supported by the wire] or even the whole vine.
While we have some supplies available for cutting grape bunches, if you want to harvest these types of grapes we ask you to bring your own snippers or good sharp scissors. Snippers with pointed noses are best. Because of the need for sharp implements to cut the bunches from the vine, we do not allow children to pick grapes or even to carry snippers into the fields. We do not want them running with tools or cutting their own fingers. They can go with you into the grape fields and hold the bucket. Note that it will take two hands to cut off a bunch of grapes- one to hold the bunch and one to operate the snippers so that bucket holding is an important help!
The Happy Berry has four varieties of seedless concord table grapes: Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter. How do you know when they are ripe? Venus, Mars, and Jupiter turn dark blue. Look for bunches with uniform dark blue color. If there is a red tinge they are not ready but will be in a few days. Be aware that the bunches on a vine do not ripen all at once- so you walk along looking for the dark blue bunches. Saturn will be a dark red, but the same guidelines apply.
Please be selective when making your decision to cut a cluster, and it is important to not throw unwanted harvest or other attractants onto the ground in the fields. Doing so can create heaps of problems with bees and ants.
We encourage you to bring your own containers for picking. Or alternatively, we welcome you to use our containers in the field for picking, then transfer the berries to your own containers to take home.
Recommendations for containers:
No bags. Bags do not work well as they crush the berries. Long and low containers work well for blackberries. Blackberries crush easily if you pile them too high. For blueberries, a bucket no bigger than 2 gallons works well. Containers deeper than 2 gallons will crush the blueberries.
A loose fitting cotton shirt and/or shirt with UPF protection, a floppy hat to shade your face and good shoes. Please no sandles or flip flops. The terrain is uneven, and in places, sometimes steep. Please wear shoes with good tread for walking around the farm. Carry water with you into the field. If you do not keep hydrated your body temperature can get too high very quickly and be very harmful. Symptoms, in addition to dizziness and feeling bad, can be failing to sweat or excessive sweating. If you experience any of these symptons, seek shade, use wet towels or anything you can to get your body temperature down. Ice on neck, arm pits, forehead. Get help!- even using your cell phone to call the staff on the porch to come get you!
Figs are climacteric. That means they will continue to ripen after they are picked. First you must recognize when they have reached the point so that they will continue to ripen. In figs this marked by the fruit pedicel -or stem- which can be very short, about ¼ inch or less. When the stem is straight they will not ripen any further if picked. When the stem starts to bend it will continue to ripen. Usually the fruit will also begin to bend too. Only in varieties that have a very short stem will this be difficult to see. The next you will see a change in color which at first is a yellow cast and in some varieties like Brown Turkey they will turn shades of brown. The final stage of ripening they will develop cracks in the skin. At this point they are very very sweet and are oozing sugar. The bees love the sugar and start lapping it up making a wound which oozes more sugar and before you know it there is a whole that looks like a bird pecked the fig. When picking very ripe figs I always give it a little bump to scare the bee away before I pick. You should try to pick the fig with the stem on it. If you tear it off the life of the fig in the refrigerator is shorten greatly. Figs are best used the day you pick or in just a day or so and you should get them in the refrigerator as soon as possible. Picked properly they will even ripen in the refrig. That is why you rarely see true southern figs in the store. They can not control the shelf life.
You pick muscadines one at a time UNNLIKE bunch grapes suchas seedless concords or Jacques. Muscadines are NOT climacteric- which means they will not ripen after they are picked. If you pick them green or sour they will remain green and sour. You pick Muscadines one berry at a time. You do not pick clusters. The best way to pick a muscadine, bronze or black, is by softness. You need to look at the grape and judge by the color if it needs to be felt. Then feel the grape ... if it is hard do not pick it. If you think it is a little soft the next step is to do a test eating. Is it sweet??? is the skin tender??? Repeat this process until you learn by feel what is a ripe muscadine grape. If you look at the end of the rows you can see the names of the varieties in each row. The pollinators insects of muscadines, tiny green bees, move up and down rows and do not move across rows so that is the reason for two varieties in each row. The bottom line is- if you are using color to decide whether or not to feel a berry you have to associate the color with the variety. This is not as difficult as it sounds... after a little bit you will recognize that this vine is a little more bronze or this is has a little pink or this is a little more yellow so you know when to feel the grape. In no time at all you will become an experienced muscadine picker and with such big berries the bucket is fill very quickly.