Ok, I've eaten so many not-quite-ripe blueberries my stomach hurts... Can someone tell me what the trick is to identifying when they're at their peak flavor? This is my first season...
Not quite ripe blueberries are actually the best. They're great for baking, and they go well with oatmeal. Just add a little sugar to overcome the extra tang, if you prefer. You can leave the berries on the shrub for a few extra days, and they will get darker, and sweeter. However, the birds are not stupid, they are watching the crop mature, and they will swoop in and help themselves when the berries are fully ripe. Your question is easy to answer-watch the birds, who are watching the berries. When the birds get serious about taking the fruit, it's likely ready to pick.
My birds eat apples two months before ripe and grapes a month early. I won't trust them one inch with blueberries. And how do you tell which ones they're eating?
One trick is to look at the back side of the berry. That turns dark last. But that's hard to see on some varieties with tight clusters. Furthermore some need a week or several past being dark to lose the tartness.
Protect from birds and force yourself to go without berries for a week. Test and if still not ripe enough wait another week.
Another suggestion is to try other varieties. Living in FL you have many choices if you get enough chilling. Try Springhigh it tastes great even when still not fully dark and is very early. Sweet, low acid, and great blueberry flavor. Also get a Sweetcrisp which matures later. After you taste it you won't want another except to lengthen the harvest season.
I think your Sunshine Blue would ripen last. By then you'd have it figured out.
Knowing when to pick blueberries is tricky. One strategy that I use is to look closely at the color of the berry where it attaches to the stem -- if it's even faintly reddish (even if the rest of the berry is blue), it probably isn't fully ripe yet. Also, a ripe berry will generally detach from the stem much more easily than an unripe one. Still, I end up picking a certain percentage of berries that aren't fully ripe no matter how hard I try. Then again, I enjoy the tartness of underripe berries, especially when balanced by the sweetness of riper ones -- the combination is quite nice.
The birds definitely watch my berries. As soon as they color up they are gone. With netting on I get to see berries actually turn blue, and then pick them!
I'm not sure if any method would be 100%, but my approach is pretty close to shazaam's. My BBs get a light powdery coating on the outside, which makes it a challenge to tell if a berry is ripe at first glance. I reach in with my thumb and try to swipe off the coating up near the top/shoulder of the berry. If I see solid dark blue and/or the berry comes off easily, I've got a winner. That swipe/rub move has worked well for me. Any green or light color on the shoulder and the berry is left to ripen.
Thank you everyone for the suggestions.
ericwi & melikeeatplants (love the name), I have bird netting on my BB so I haven't had any problems with the birds...and I've got a lot of birds!
shazaam, I have noticed that some do come off easier than others so I'll stop picking them if they don't come off easy.
Also, they turn blue and then they develop the white coating so I'll wait till they're more white and then do what you do mrclint.
Fruitnut, I would love to get more BBs, but I don't have any room. That's why I went with this variety since they were supposed to do good in containers and are self-pollinating.
I love growing plants, but there's something about growing food...it's so addicting!
I should add that 'Sunshine Blue' still tastes very good here even if harvested a little early.