Monday, October 17, 2011

Cleaning Berries

I spent most of the day today cleaning Vaccinium ovatum berries.  Yesterday I separated the green berries, dead flowers, and leaves from the good berries by floating them in water and today I was left with the irksome task of sorting through the layer of material that floated to get the ripe berries that had floated because they were attached to unripe berries.  I tried a ¼ inch screen and found that the ripe fruit didn’t fall through it, so I went to the hardware store and purchased enough screen to make a tumbling wheel.  Then I purchased an old cookie tin from a thrift store and riveted the hardware cloth between the lid and the base of the tine and perforated the entire cylinder with a threaded rod.  When I filled the cylinder with fruit and spun it, the small unripe berries, pine needles, and other chaff fell through the mesh and the ripe berries tumbled to the low side and out into a bowl that I placed there to catch them.  I put a blow dryer, set to blow cool air, on the bowl to blow away the leaves that were too large to fall through the mesh.  This process worked well, though it made a mess in the kitchen.  This would be a good thing to do while still in the field collecting before coming home.  Just plug your blow dryer in to a currant bush!  The most troublesome part was loading the berries in to the sieve, because I couldn’t lean it over to poor them in, or they would all tumble out the other side.  A custom designed funnel that fit between the spokes on my end piece would be perfect for the job.  I also should have left the tin on all but one portion of the lower end piece so that I could load the berries in with sieve tipped up and the bottom end piece in a position so that the open part is the 12 o’clock position.  After the sieve was full of fruit, I could centre the fruit, and begin spinning it in a nearly level manner.  A future version of this apparatus should also use stainless steel mesh instead of galvanized steel.

I am also seeing the advantage of having a screen built into your picking basket or berry rake so that the small unripe berries and chaff fall out as you pick.  This evening Andra mentioned that Lee Valley carries a very nice berry rake that I might look at before making my next one.  Perhaps I will bend my next rake out of tin. Pin It submit to reddit