Our 2019 commercial harvesting of berries for beverages wrapped up on July 11. 3100 lbs on approx 1000 bushes planted in 2011, 2013 & 2015, harvested by a crew of between 1 and 4 guys working partial days over 2 weeks, made possible by some techniques we have learned over the years.
First of all, by planting a range of early, mid and late ripening varieties, a small crew can keep up with the ripening of the berries. Tundra and Indigo Gem ripen first, then we move on to Czech #17, Borealis, Honey Bee and Aurora. We don’t have enough late selections for commercial harvesting yet.
Secondly, the discovery of using light weight Olive Harvesters (ATRAX and Infaco) with their long “fingers” which gently shake the branches on medium speed enables a bush to be harvested in literally a minute or less.
Third, a catch system underneath, whether a tarp or bin, easily pulled out, pouring the berries into trays for transport back to the cleaning station.
Fourth, “Chute-N-Go” – down the chute into a bag or bucket for freezing, blowing the leaves off with a leaf blower.
Borealis is NOT recommended for commercial harvesting due to the amount of foliage which not only hides the berries but prevents airflow which can result in moldy berries, plus stems do not detach until berries are quite ripe. We harvested at a Brix of over 10, prior to any significant mold. Borealis can yield over 6 lbs/bush. Blowing the leaves off worked great even with more leaves than berries!
On the other extreme, tall Czech #17 with its smaller berries yields over 10 lb if you can keep the cedar waxwings out of them!
Checkout our You Tube Videos:
Destination of our berries this year:
- Bemidji Beer, Bemidji, MN
- Forager Brewery, Rochester, MN (see Brewer Introduction video)
- Dakota Sun Gardens, Carrington, ND
Aurora honeyberries are the #1 favorite of most people for taste, size, ease of picking, easy to see berries on bush, easily detachable, taste good soon after turning blue, good yield. The only negativity might be uneven ripening.
Jonkheer van Tets red currants ripen at the same time as Aurora gets nicely ripe, and just as the beginning of the late bloomers are ripening here in zone 3.
Some people prefer the less acidic saskatoon over the tangy honeyberries. Most people like them both. Saskatoons are “meatier” – not so juicy, and I don’t mind the larger seeds inside which are edible. Martin in hand and JB30 on bush are two selections with nice large berries for easy picking and great taste.