When to pick strawberries?

Strawberries ~ our first crop of the season is ready!

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Parlee Farms in Tyngsboro has grown strawberries for over thirty years. It was the first crop we grew and it is the first crop that ripens. When the strawberries are ready for picking, then farm reopens for the season.

To help you get ready for your visit, we thought we’d put together a little guide. Here are a few facts about the strawberries that we grow, followed by some tips that will help you get the most of your visit:

What are June Bearers (or June-bearing strawberries)?

June Bearers are traditional New England varieties of strawberries. These strawberries are available for approximately three weeks starting in mid-June. At Parlee Farms, we have five varieties of June Bearers, with the largest planting being ‘Jewel’ strawberries. A mid-season high quality berry, Jewel strawberries are bright red, flavorful, fragrant, and large which make them easy to pick. All of our June bearing strawberries can be picked by you personally or bought at our farm stand.

Late Summer Strawberries

During the late summer, we do not have pick your own strawberries but don’t fret! You can still buy our freshly picked late summer strawberries at our farm stand. We offer two varieties of these juicy and delicious strawberries. They are available from mid August until early October.

How do we plant our strawberries?

At Parlee Farms, we begin planting strawberries in mid April. We use raised beds to grow our strawberries. The benefits of using raised beds include good drainage and weeds and grass are kept from impeding on their growth space.

To help our new plants grow larger, we pick off all the flowers of the June Bearers in late May during the first year. The fruit will not develop during the first year, but during the second year around mid-May the blossoms will appear on the plants letting us know we are only four weeks away from strawberry season starting (and the farm opening!).

So, 15 months after a strawberry plant is planted, we start picking. A planting will last anywhere from 3 – 5 years. At Parlee Farms, we know it’s important to monitor soil health and use the most beneficial nutrients and fertilizers so that we can provide you with the best strawberries possible.

A few tips when picking your own strawberries …

  • Always check TODAY’S FARM NEWS before leaving home. Picking hours change daily based on how many strawberries are ripe for picking, the weather, and the number of people we expect to come picking.
  • The best picking is first thing in the morning. Strawberries are very fragile and the cooler morning temperatures make picking easier and the berries are firmer. Also, the best supply of strawberries is first thing in the morning!
  • Make sure to wear appropriate clothes for visiting a farm. Close-toed shoes, hat and sunscreen are recommended.
  • We welcome families to the farm ~ there is no better way to show children where their food comes from than by picking their own! Strawberry picking is a little more challenging than most fruits because strawberries lay on the ground. So everyone needs to take care in the strawberry patch not to step on the berries. Squished berries are not fun for anyone!
  • Please pay for your strawberries before eating them. While it is very tempting to eat strawberries while picking, please keep in mind that growing fruit is how we make a living. After paying for them, we would be happy to wash them for you so you can enjoy them at our picnic area.

Picking strawberries in June is such a great way to start the summer. We hope you will choose Parlee Farms for strawberries this season!

Categorized in: Strawberries

This post was written by Parlee Farms

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CLOSED FOR 2019. THANKS FOR ANOTHER GREAT SEASON!

​Strawberry Season
Mid April – Early June
​2019 Prices
$16/gallon
$9/half gallon
U-Pick Hours:
Monday-Friday 8:00-12:00
​Saturdays 8:00-3:00
(Please Call Before You Come (803)684-2732)
Come start a family tradition by visiting our pick-your-own strawberry patch! Fresh strawberries are delicious, but there’s something extra special about picking them yourself. We are located in York, South Carolina and are just a short drive from Charlotte, Gastonia, and Rock Hill.
Our pick-your-own strawberry patch typically opens in mid-April and closes in mid-May. This is subject to change depending on factors out of our control such as the weather. To ensure that you come when the strawberries are plentiful, juicy, and sweet , follow us on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram to receive updates.
Also, you can always call us at (803) 684-2732 for picking conditions and more information. We hope to see you out in the strawberry patch soon!
Picnic Areas
Did you know that we have picnic tables and grassy areas available? We hope you’ll plan to have a picnic lunch after you pick your strawberries!
Other Pick Your Own Opportunities
Don’t forget that we also have pick-your-own Blueberries, Peaches, Blackberries and Pumpkins. Visit these pages for more information about when these pick-your-own opportunities are available.

Strawberry picking is a wonderful activity for the whole family. It is very rewarding too! This Strawberry Picking page is here to help people to understand how to effectively begin picking strawberries. While not terribly difficult, there are a few tips that can help you pick the best strawberries, whether they come from your garden or a pick-your-own strawberry field. This site (Strawberry Plants .org) is dedicated to spreading a passion for strawberries far and wide. If we are successful, you will want to use the information on this Strawberry Picking page the next time you go to pick strawberries!

How the Strawberry Picking Page Works

This main Strawberry Picking page serves as a hub for everything related to picking strawberries. All the basics of picking strawberries will be covered here. The information on this page should be sufficient to give any beginner the basics needed to fill buckets upon buckets full of ripe, tasty strawberries. When you are ready to put into practice the strawberry picking tips you learn here, be sure to check our directory to find Pick Your Own strawberry farms and operations near you. Without further ado, on to the strawberry picking information!

When Should You Go Strawberry Picking?

As a rule of thumb, you should always check with your local Pick Your Own Strawberries operation before deciding to go pick strawberries. There can be significant variability in harvest times (see the Strawberry Varieties page for more details) depending on which type and which variety are available for strawberry picking.

In general, however, the months of April, May, and June are when most strawberries are available to pick in the United States. The peak of the strawberry season occurs in April in parts of Texas and Florida. In the rest of the deep South, strawberries will peak in May. For the middle states, early June will see the peak of the strawberry season, and for the far northern states and Canada, the harvest peak will occur later in the month of June.

Strawberry picking peak times also varies regionally by state, and weather can dramatically affect production as well. Again, before going to pick strawberries, call your destination farm. The weather, variety of strawberry planted, and the location are all factors that will impact the farm and may affect when you can most effectively pick strawberries.

On a more specific note, the time of day also matters depending on when you plan to use your picked strawberries. If you will be using them or eating them right away, they can be picked at any time. However, if they won’t be used for a day or two, you should pick strawberries in the cooler part of the morning or on more temperate, cloudy days. Picking strawberries on hot and sunny days will result in them softening and spoiling more rapidly.

Why Should You Pick Your Own Strawberries?

When you pick your own strawberries, you can often talk to the people who grow them: the farmers. This is advisable for several reasons. First, it is often enlightening and educational to meet the people responsible for growing the food you eat. Second, they are usually have a wealth of knowledge to give regarding the plants they grow. And, finally, they call tell you about their growing practices.

Commercial strawberry operations usually do whatever they can to maximize the yield they can take to market. Often, this includes using pesticides and anti-fungal chemicals in quantities that leave significant residues you may not want to ingest. They don’t put the residual pesticides, fungicides, or other trace chemicals on the labels.

In fact, commercial strawberries bought in the store make the infamous “dirty dozen” list each year. This is a list of the 12 most contaminated common foods. Even after washing, store-bought berries often have significant levels of unnatural chemicals on and in them.

By going strawberry picking at a local farm, you are able to inquire about the agricultural practices used by the farm. Usually, a local strawberry farm uses much less chemicals in the cultivation of strawberry plants, and, therefore, have “cleaner” strawberries. Some strawberry picking establishments are even offering organically grown strawberries for picking these days! Another benefit of picking strawberries locally is that the berries are often more flavorful. Commercial operations do all they can to increase the size and number of strawberries grown. Often, the smaller and tastier berries get culled while larger and less flavorful ones get shipped.

Picking Strawberries: Preparation

While not rocket science, strawberry picking at a local pick your own farm does require some planning. Before getting in the car and heading off to pick strawberries, you need to do a few things to make sure your experience is a positive one.

1. Call the Pick Your Own ( or U-Pick ) Farm:

The weather affects strawberries. Both the amount of rainfall and temperature influence strawberry production more than most other garden fruits and vegetables. Also, large crowds of strawberry picking enthusiasts can virtually clear a field of ripe strawberries before lunch. The people who run the operation should be able to tell you whether or not it is worth your time and energy (and money!) to make a trip to the strawberry patch or not. Their hours may also be dynamic according to strawberry availability. So, be sure to call before you hop in the car to leave.

When you call, verify: strawberry availability, hours of operation, directions to the strawberry picking location, and the payment methods that are accepted. Many strawberry farms only accept cash or check, so make sure you take the correct payment vehicle.

2. Take into Account Time Considerations:

Strawberry picking can be time consuming, depending on how quickly you can pick strawberries and how many you are planning on harvesting. On average it takes between ten and fifteen minutes to find and pick a quart of ripe, ready-to-eat strawberries. This means it can take up to an hour to pick a gallon. Of course, with quick hands and abundant strawberries to pick, it can take less time as well. Calling your farmer will help determine strawberry availability and length of time it will take to pick the amount of berries you need.

If time is limited, most pick-your-own strawberry farms also offer pre-picked strawberries for sale by the pound. A quart of strawberries should weigh about 1.5 pounds. By knowing both how many strawberries you need and approximately how long it will take you to pick the strawberries you need, you can plan on buying the shortfall. (For more on conversion measurements, see our post on Strawberry Measures, Conversions, Substitutions, & Equivalents)

Additionally, plan to get to there as early as possible. At the peak of the strawberry season, hoards of people may be picking strawberries, especially on the weekends. In order to get the best strawberries, arriving early is important. If you arrive in the afternoon on a weekend during peak season, you might find yourself looking at a field full of unripe berries.

3. Know Your Goals and Pick Strawberries Accordingly:

Before going to pick strawberries, it is important to know what your quantity goals for strawberry picking are. Try to determine how many strawberries you will be using for cooking, processing, or eating fresh. Once you determine how many strawberries you need, try not to pick strawberries in excess of that amount. Strawberries have a notoriously short “shelf-life” and will go bad quickly. They will quickly begin to get moldy if left at room temperature and only remain edible for 2 or 3 days if refrigerated. Picking too many strawberries will end up costing you time and money if you aren’t able to use them quickly.

4. Take Any Equipment You May Need While Picking Strawberries:

Virtually all U-pick or pick-your-own farms will offer appropriate plastic or wicker containers for strawberry picking. They do, however, usually charge for these. So, if you want to avoid the fees, bring your own containers for holding your picked strawberries.

Any container will work, but be sure that strawberries are not stacked to a height of five inches. Stacking or heaping the picked strawberries higher than this will result in bruising damage to the fruits at the bottom of the pile. Do make sure that the containers you bring are sturdy. The inexpensive aluminum baking containers and cake pans may look like a good option in the store, but you should avoid them. When full of strawberries, they easily bend and warp and will likely end up dumping a strawberry picker’s hard work back amongst the strawberry plants unless great care is taken.

The best containers are the firmer plastic containers or metal baking pans. Glad brand containers work well, as do metal baking or cake pans that have sides at least three inches high. Pots can also be used, but they tend to be heavier to cart around while strawberry picking.

As strawberries don’t grow on trees, they are either picked sitting, squatting, bending over, or kneeling. For kneelers or sitters, knee pads or a garden cushion can be of benefit as well.

5. Plan for Good Strawberry Picking Weather!

Hopefully, it will be sunny and warm when you go picking strawberries. Take a hat and sunscreen so that you don’t get sunburned and a source of water so that you don’t get dehydrated. A snack or two might also be a good idea if you will be out strawberry picking for an extended period of time. Bugs aren’t generally a tremendous nuisance, but if it has been especially rainy recently, bug repellant might be a good idea.

Choosing the Right Strawberries to Pick

When strawberry picking, it is important to know which strawberries to pick. It is important to choose plump and firm strawberries. Make sure that the strawberries are completely red as well. Unlike tomatoes and some other fruits and vegetables, strawberries stop ripening at the moment they are picked. If you have ever wondered how to tell if a strawberry is ripe, all you have to do is look at the tip of the strawberry. If the tip is completely red, the strawberry is ready to eat.

Pictured below is the development and ripening sequence a strawberry goes through. Your strawberry picking should target fruits that are similar to the two on the end: no white tips and possessing a full, deep red color uniformly.

How to Pick Strawberries

Strawberry picking is most successful when the picker applies the minor technical aspects of picking strawberries to the task at hand. Here is how to pick strawberries:

1. Hold the stem of the strawberry at about one half of an inch above the berry between your thumbnail and index finger while cradling the fruit in your palm.

2. Sever the stem sever the stem with pressure from your thumbnail while slightly twisting the stem.

3. Allow the strawberry (including the cap and stem) gently roll down into your palm. If you are ambidextrous, use your other hand for strawberry picking at the same time using the same procedure.

4. Repeat step three until both palms are full of strawberries.

5. Gently place your handfuls of picked strawberries into your chosen container. Don’t press the strawberries or heap them over five inches.

6. Repeat the entire process until you have accomplished your strawberry picking goals or are tired of picking strawberries.

Strawberry Picking Etiquitte

Before going to pick strawberries, it is always necessary to call and confirm the availability of strawberries to pick, the hours of operation, and the prices. This ensures neither you nor the farmer has unpleasant surprises upon your arrival. There are usually kids romping about, so dress accordingly.

When you go strawberry picking, remember that the pick your own farm is likely how the farmer earns a living. Be courteous. The plants can be damaged or killed by traipsing on them, so be careful not to step on either the plants or strawberries. Be gentle with the strawberry plants and use a careful hand to spread the foliage while looking for strawberries. And, be careful to pick only fully ripe strawberries. Picking and then discarding partially ripe strawberries means that the farmer takes the loss. Making a mistake comes with the territory, but excessive carelessness can cost the farmer a lot of revenue. Additionally, minimize the amount of strawberries you snarf down while picking, unless eating while you pick is encouraged by the owner. It is difficult to abstain from sampling a few especially tempting strawberries, but be courteous and keep the freebies to a minimum. It isn’t an all-you-can-eat buffet. And, strawberries aren’t snowballs. Refrain from picking a produce fight with your friends or family.

You also have an opportunity to support the efforts of the farmer by joining with him in maintaining a healthy strawberry field. If you come across obviously damaged or partially insect-eaten strawberries, remove them and place them in the center of the row. It is particularly important to do the same for any berries you come across that are rotten, scorched by the sun, or diseased. Removing these for the farmer keeps rot and other problems from spreading to other strawberries. And, this makes the strawberry picking experience better for everyone!

Strawberry Picking: Care After Picking

As already mentioned, picked strawberries do not have a long shelf-life. When strawberry picking, you should always keep the picked strawberries in the shade and out of direct sun, if possible. Due to the heat that develops inside parked cars, it is also better to keep them out of automobiles until just prior to leaving.

Upon arriving home again, sort the berries. Gently pour the strawberries into shallow pans or on a table. Throw away any rotten strawberries and either eat or discard any berries that were squashed. As soon as possible, chill the remainder in a refrigerator without washing them. Washing the strawberries should be done just prior to consuming or processing them. Washing them hastens the spoiling process otherwise. Be sure to eat the refrigerated strawberries within a day or two. After that, they lose their flavor, color, and will shrivel, rot, or get moldy.

If you got more than you can eat in a few days, you can give them away, sell them, or process/freeze them for later use. The short instructions for freezing strawberries goes like this: wash them, cut the green caps off, put them in the freezer. For a more detailed explanation, see our post on How to Freeze Strawberries.

Strawberry Picking: Conclusion

Congratulations! You now know how to pick strawberries. When you are strawberry picking, you will probably get carried away and pick too many, despite the warnings on this page. That is perfectly fine! Use them creatively, and if you get stuck, you can create new recipes with the strawberry measures and conversions linked above. And, if you are really brave, you can Buy Strawberry Plants and start Growing Strawberries yourself next year!

(If you don’t have time to grow or pick your own strawberries, see our Strawberry Buying Guide for tips on getting the most for your money at the grocery store or farmer’s market!)

More Reading:

How to Store Strawberries
It is important to know how to store strawberries to maximize shelf life. Storing strawberries fairly simple. Store strawberries appropriately and enjoy them fresh for up to a week!

Strawberry Picking Robot
Strawberry picking robots are coming soon to a field near you. Strawberry robot technology is advancing, and may capture the industry one day in a yet-distant future. But, you can view a new strawberry picking robot here and be amazed!

Pick Your Own Strawberries
Pick Your Own Strawberries Directory. All 50 States. U Pick strawberries & pick your own strawberry farms. Strawberry picking listed by state and county. Find where you can pick strawberries today!

Get a Job Picking Strawberries
Strawberry picking jobs offer opportunity for seasonal employment around the world. It is possible to get a job picking strawberries in many countries. More here.

When is Strawberry Season in Florida?

All about the berry business in the Sunshine State

They’re a staple of shortcakes, smoothies and margaritas, and an enduring symbol of summer. That’s why is may surprise you to know that in Florida, strawberries are grown during the winter months. If a strawberry craving hits on a spring day and you’re in the Tampa area, you’re in luck. Don some comfy clothes and head east to find berry farms. U-pick berries can be yours for the taking (and a little cash), if the weather gods align.

Q: Wait, Florida grows strawberries?

A: And how? While many Americans associate strawberries with California, Florida is the capital of winter strawberry production. So while the berries you buy during the summer may come from California, during winter, many available strawberries hail from Florida. Of course, not all berries sold in the U.S. are domestically grown, as some are imported from Mexico.

Q: So when is strawberry season?

A: Generally Florida’s strawberries are ripe and ready for picking between the months of December and March. Sometimes the season stretches into April. However, weather plays a major role in the quality and size of each year’s crop, so the exact length of the picking season varies from year to year.

Q: Where are Florida strawberries grown?

A: Most of the state’s berries yield from the appropriately named Plant City and its surrounding area. Plant City is located about 25 miles east of Tampa, and about 60 miles southwest of Orlando. However, some other small farms throughout the state also grow and sell strawberries.

Q: Can I pick strawberries in Florida?

A: Yes. However, because Florida’s farms are a major source of winter strawberries across the United States, their focus is primarily on commercial operations. Basically, their big commercial customers come first, and individuals who want to pick berries come second. That means that the U-pick farms generally don’t open to individuals until the end of the growing season, usually in March. And because weather is such a major factor in the success of each year’s yield, during tough growing years there may not be many great berries left by the time you get there. Prepare for slim pickings. The U-pick season is also very short because there’s limited supply left by that time. Local farms may open their fields for only a few weeks in March or April.

Tip

Some small farms that don’t market to big commercial retailers may open their U-pick operations as early as December, so check with any local growers in your part of Florida. Of course, the berries at the beginning of the season will be small. Wait until February to pick the best berries.

Q: What do Florida strawberries cost?

A: In stores, price depends on the retailer. Generally, berries grown in Mexico are a little cheaper than domestic fruit. If you’re picking your own, each farm also sets its own prices. You can expect to pay a few dollars per pound of strawberries. Bring cash, as small farms generally aren’t equipped to process credit cards.

Q: How do I pick strawberries?

A: Farm staff can offer expert instruction, but the process is pretty simple. Grasp the stem above the berry and gently twist to remove the fruit from its plant. Carefully place the berries into your container so they don’t get crushed. You may need to bring your own bucket or other container. Make sure to wash all berries before eating them.

Remember that even in winter, the Florida heat is intense out in an open field. Get to the U-pick farm early to minimize your time in the sun. Bring a hat and sunglasses and wear closed-toe shoes. Picking your own berries requires a lot of crouching and bending, so wear loose and comfortable clothes.

Q: What else should I know?

A: You think you love strawberries? You’ve got nothing on the people of Plant City. After all, a significant part of the local economy relies on those juicy berries, and the locals love to celebrate the bounty. If you’re near Plant City in March, check out the annual Florida Strawberry Festival. It dates back to 1930. Today’s festival lasts more than a week and includes entertainment, contests and the crowning of the Strawberry Queen. No offense to royalty, but the strawberry-themed concessions are the real main event. Strawberry pizza, anyone?

EAT STRAWBERRIES

Synonymous with summer, the strawberry season begins with the arrival of early season fruit grown under cover. Imported strawberries, now sold for most of the year, are picked whilst slightly under-ripe to ensure that they don’t turn into mush during transportation. However strawberries do not ripen after being picked and so imported strawberries are often hard and have an undeveloped flavour – a pale imitation of in-season local strawberries.

The flavour of strawberries can be really brought out with the addition of a simple dressing. Gently heat some balsamic vinegar and/or orange liqueur, add an equal volume of sugar and stir to dissolve. Allow to cool and pour a little (less is more) over the strawberries. Stir gently and leave at room temperature to macerate for half an hour. Serve, of course, with plenty of cream.

HISTORY

Strawberries are native to both Old and New worlds. They have been eaten since Roman times, when they were also used medicinally to help with digestive ailments, discolored teeth and skin irritations. The strawberries available today are derived from varieties that were originally developed in the seventeenth century.

BIOLOGY

The strawberry plant, genus Fragaria, is a member of the rose family. Strawberries are not technically fruit, but pseudocarps (also known as false fruit or accessory fruit). A pseudocarp is a fruitlike structure consisting of tissue that is not derived from the ovary wall. The true fruits of the strawberry plant are actually the small seeds (achenes) found on the outer surface.

TIPS

BUYING
Look for berries that are unblemished and bright red with fresh-looking green leafy caps. The fruit should be not too firm and not too soft (there should be no dampness on the bottom of the container). The scent is an indicator of quality and smaller strawberries often have more flavour. Strawberries absorb water readily and so are best served unwashed: choose organic fruit to reduce the levels of toxins you may be ingesting. Try seeking out a Pick-Your-Own farm or local farmers’ market to get the freshest.

STORING
Strawberries are highly perishable; some may keep for 2 or 3 days but others will be past their best within 24 hours. If not eating on the day of purchase, spread on a shallow plate, cover with paper towels and store in a sealed container or plastic bag in a cool place. They can be frozen: spread unwashed strawberries in a single layer, freeze until solid and then transfer to a freezer bag.

PREPARING
If you’ve bought organic strawberries you can just wipe them with a damp kitchen towel. Non-organic strawberries should be rinsed and wiped clean. Gently pat dry before removing the caps and white hull with a paring knife. Serve at room temperature.

Disappointingly firm or flavourless strawberries make a nice fruit pie (try with rhubarb and vanilla).

MISCELLANY

The ancient Roman practice of using strawberries as a natural teeth whitener is still being championed today. Josephine Fairley, author of The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book, recommends crushing a ripe strawberry with a little baking powder, brushing onto the teeth and leaving for five minutes before brushing again and rinsing.

SSS Strawberries

Tips for picking strawberries

As we all know, strawberries are tender fruit, so while picking strawberries one has to be careful how you handle them. Let’s find out some handy tips on how to pick strawberries.

Picking strawberries can be great fun and it’s something the whole family can do together. Kicking off this trend, plenty of strawberry farms have come up with ideas that not only promote tourism but also make for a fresh change. The official strawberry picking season is usually around the seasons beginning April to June. Picking can be done fore a maximum of 4-5 days into their picking season.
While one might think that picking strawberries is easy, you actually have to know how to do it cleanly and carefully so that you do not cause damage either to the plant or the fruit. If you are out picking strawberries in a farm ask the owners to guide you about the best way of avoiding injury to the plant. You should be careful so that your knees and feet do not cause damage to either the plants or the fruit on the edge.

While picking, remember not to throw the fruit into the basket. Strawberries are tender fruits and bruise easily if not kept with care. If you want to bring along your own container for picking strawberries, make sure that the container is not very deep. Heaping strawberries one on top of the other more than 5 inches deep can bruise the berries, which are at the bottom. Ideally you could use either metal oven pans or plastic dishpans, which are not more than 3 inch tall. Large pots are usually good for holding fruit since they have plenty of space.

You would be well advised to pick those fruits only which are fully ripe and evenly coloured. While picking strawberries do not pick a fruit that is half ripe or discoloured. Since the fruit will not ripe once plucked, it will be wasted if you pick such strawberries. For a basketful of good berries, be careful to pick the chicest ones which are bright and plump and look ripe. In order to search for the good and choicest of berries use your hands to part the leaves so that the hidden fruits can be harvested.
Few handy tips for picking strawberries-

– Identify the berry you want to pluck
– Part the leaves in a clean manner and hold them back so that you can make a neat cut
– Hold the stem a little above the berry between your forefinger and the thumbnail, now pull the berry with a twist, but be careful to be tender, do not use excessive force, this may lead to damage to the other fruits.
– Be careful that your hands touch only the berry you are plucking be careful not to bruise other fruits.
– Once the stem is broken about one-half inch from the berry, roll it you’re your palm.

While you can pick strawberries at any time of the day, it is best to do so when the weather is cool. The early morning or cloudy days are the best. The fruit might become soft and bruised if the weather is hot. Once you finish picking strawberries put them in the shade.

Besides being fun, picking strawberries can mean bringing home the choicest fruits and healthier ones too than the ones you buy from stores. Also you have the option of choosing from a wide range about which fruit you would like to pick. Often the flavour of the fruit depends on its ripeness as well as variety too.

Sumptuous Strawberries

Sophie Thomson

SOPHIE THOMSON: There are few things more enjoyable than eating your own fresh, home-grown strawberries and if you want to be picking tem in late spring and summer, now’s the time to plant.

Strawberries are a member of the rose family, so it’s not surprising that they get similar fungal diseases like blackspot, but they also have something in common with rhododendrons and camellias – they prefer acidic soil, although only slightly acidic at around six to six and a half pH.

Agricultural sulphur can be added to help acidify your soil and you can also use composted oak leaves. Now I’ve tested the pH here and it doesn’t need any amendment, however strawberries need to grow in really good soil, high in organic matter, so I’m adding in some aged cow manure, just to give it a bit of extra oomph.

Now it’s really important that strawberries have good drainage, so ideally, grow them in a raised bed like this one or if you can’t, make a nice mound of soil and plant your strawberries on top of it.

Before I start planting, I want to show you an older section of this garden where there are some strawberry beds that haven’t been tended for a while because it shows you how strawberries reproduce – by runners.

This is the parent plant and as it grows, it puts out this stem which forms a new plant where it hits the ground on the end. This is what we call a runner and to propagate it, all you simply need to do is to lift it up, shake some of the soil off and cut it away from the parent plant.

Now obviously, propagating new strawberry plants from runners is the cheapest way to go, however in winter you can actually buy runners bare rooted which is always cheaper than buying strawberries in pots. The rule of thumb with strawberries is that you want to replace them every 3 years because the parent plants are subject to viral problems and that’s often show by marbling on the leaf, speckles on the leaf, flowers that are not developing properly – they’ve got a greenish tinge – or plants that aren’t producing well. And when you’re re-planting with either runners or new plants, make sure that you move to a new bed for good soil hygiene.

When it comes to planting a potted strawberry, it’s really very simple. All you need to do is simply scoop out a hole and pop your plant in.

This one’s ‘Cambridge Rival.’ (Fragariaxananassae’Cambridge Rival’). It’s a really good variety with medium sized fruit and best eaten fresh.

Another variety I like is ‘Chandler.’ (Fragariaxananassae’Chandler’). It produces really large fruit which despite its size has a fantastic flavour and it’s wonderful in cooking.

When it comes to a bare-rooted strawberry runner, there’s a couple of things to bear in mind. Firstly, you need to plant them at the same level they were growing in the ground. If you plant them too deep, the runner will rot and if you plant them too shallow, the roots will be exposed and the plant will stress.

The second thing is that when you dig your hole, you need to put a bit of a mound in the centre of the hole and then spread the roots out around it…like that….and now we simply backfill and make sure that we haven’t got it too deep.

It’s really important that you mulch your strawberries well – that’s to keep the fruit off the ground so they don’t get fungal problems or get attacked by insects and traditionally, strawberries are mulched with straw, however pine needles work really well if you have access to them too. As they break down, they help to make the soil acidic.

And I’m also planting Alpine Strawberries. These produce small fruits, but they have an intense flavour. They’re varieties which grow wild in Europe. The one downside with growing them in your garden is that they can tend to get away from you and become a bit of a weed – a bit like violets do – so they’re a great plant to plant in a pot and here I’m actually planting them in a strawberry pot which has these little pouches so you can have them growing on the side as well as in the top. There are two varieties here. We’ve got ‘Reine des Vallees’ (Fragaria vesca’Reine des Vallees’) – that’s planted around the side and on the top I’ve got ‘Fraises des Bois’ (Fragaria vesca’Fraises des Bois’).

So whether you’ve got a large vegie patch or just a small balcony, you can be enjoying delicious home-grown strawberries this summer.

COSTA GEORGIADIS: Last spring, Tino went up to Tasmania’s north and he caught up with a flower grower who loves her friesians and her freesias.

Strawberry Picking Tips, Facts and Recipes

In the U.S. strawberries typically peak during April in Florida and Texas, May in the deep South, and in early June in middle sections and later June in the far North and Canada. Keep in mind that crops are ready at various times of the month depending on which part of the state you are located. In order to produce good local strawberries, producers depend on ideal spring weather conditions.

Strawberry Recipes, Canning and Freezing Strawberries

  • How to freeze strawberries!
  • Strawberry jam (with pectin) (uses less sugar or honey and less cooking)
  • Strawberry jam (without pectin) (requires much more sugar and cooking)
  • Strawberry (and other berry) jams without sugar
  • Strawberry jelly
  • Strawberry-rhubarb jam!
  • Homemade strawberry ice cream (regular, low fat, nonfat, low sugar, vanilla and even gelato)
  • Canning strawberries
  • How to make fruit juice – strawberry and other berries
  • Strawberry pie filling
  • Strawberry pie
  • Easy Rhubarb-Strawberry pie
  • Fig-strawberry jam
  • Fig-strawberry jam, made with Jello gelatin

Strawberry Facts, Measurements and Tips

  • Picking the best strawberries: Select firm, fully red berries. Strawberries DO NOT continue ripen after they are picked! In the photo, only the berry on the far right is completely ripe.
  • Strawberry festivals: Most areas that grow strawberries have a strawberry festival, at which you can taste all kinds of fresh strawberry foods, pies, jams, cakes – and most commonly, fresh strawberry shortcake. To find out where and when there is one near you, see this page for a list of strawberry festivals, sorted by state!
  • Strawberries measurements: government agriculture websites tell us that
    1 quart = 2 pints = 4 cups and is about the same as 1 liter and
    1 quart of fresh strawberries weighs 1 lbs to 1.25 lbs (or 450 to 600 g). Of course, the weight varies on variety and weather conditions.
    1 quart is normally enough for 4 servings, although I’ll admit my son can eat 1 pint by himself!
  • How much to pick? In general, 1 quart of fresh, whole, just-picked strawberries = approximately 3.5 cups hulled, whole berries. In other words, removing the caps/hulls and the occasional mushy berry means you lose 1/4 cup to 1/2 (it depends how much fruit you remove with the hull) or about 7 to 12% of every quart you pick.
  • One cup of strawberries contains only about 50 calories
  • U-pick strawberries are much healthier than store-bought. Consumer reports says store bought strawberries have so many pesticide and fungicide residues on they, that they don’t recommend you eat them at all!
  • U-pick strawberry farms typically sell berries by the pound. 1 lbs of fresh strawberries is about 2/3 of a quart.
  • It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to pick a quart, if the berries are reasonably plentiful
  • The strawberry plant adapts to wide variety of soil conditions, but does not tolerate drought well, and the berries quickly rot if the weather is rainy. For this reason, the plants are usually grown on raised beds through plastic mulch!
  • Cultivation of strawberries began in Europe in the 1300’s, but the berry only became very popular in the early 1900’s in California.
  • Do the math and be careful not to over-purchase as strawberries quickly mold when left at room temperature, and only last a couple of days in the refrigerator.
  • You can easily freeze berries that you cannot use right away – just wash, cut the hulls off and pop them into a ziplock bag, removing as much air as possible. Those vacuum food sealers REALLY do a good job of this! The berries will keep for many months frozen without air.
  • Want to grow your own strawberries? Here’s an article about how to: Strawberries are an Excellent Fruit for the Home Garden, HYG-1424-98!
  • See this page for many more fun and interesting strawberry facts, nutritional information and trivia

Before you leave to go to the farm:

  1. Always call before you go to the farm – strawberries are affected by weather (both rain and cooler temperature) more than most crops. And when they are in season, a large turnout can pick a field clean before noon, so CALL first!
  2. Leave early. On weekends, then fields may be picked clean by NOON!
  3. Most growers furnish picking containers designed for strawberries, but they may charge you for them; be sure to call before you go to see if you need to bring containers.
    If you use your own containers, remember that heaping strawberries more than 5 inches deep will bruise the lower berries. Plastic dishpans, metal oven pans with 3 inch tall sides and large pots make good containers. I like the Glad storage containers like the one at right.
  4. Bring something to drink and a few snacks; you’d be surprised how you can work up a thirst and appetite! And don’t forget hats and sunscreen for the sun. Bugs usually aren’t a problem, but some deet might be good to bring along if it has been rainy.

Tips on How to Pick Strawberries

  1. Grasp the stem just above the berry between the forefinger and the thumbnail and pull with a slight twisting motion.
  2. With the stem broken about one-half inch from the berry, allow it to roll into the palm of your hand.
  3. Repeat these operations using both hands until each holds 3 or 4 berries.
  4. Carefully place – don’t throw – the fruit into your containers. Repeat the picking process with both hands.
  5. Don’t overfill your containers or try to pack the berries down.

General Picking Tips

Whether you pick strawberries from your garden or at a Pick-Your-Own farm, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Be careful that your feet and knees do not damage plants or fruit in or along the edge of the row.
  2. Pick only the berries that are fully red. Part the leaves with your hands to look for hidden berries ready for harvest.
  3. To help the farmers, also remove from the plants berries showing rot, sunburn, insect injury or other defects and place them between the rows behind you. If they are left in the plants, the rot will quickly spread to other berries.
  4. Berries to be used immediately may be picked any time, but if you plan to hold the fruit for a few days, try to pick in the early morning or on cool, cloudy days. Berries picked during the heat of the day become soft, are easily bruised and will not keep well.
  5. Avoid placing the picked berries in the sunshine any longer than necessary. It is better to put them in the shade of a tree or shed than in the car trunk or on the car seat. Cool them as soon as possible after picking. Strawberries may be kept fresh in the refrigerator for two or three, depending upon the initial quality of the berry. After a few days in storage, however, the fruit loses its bright color and fresh flavor and tends to shrivel.
  6. For interesting and fun strawberry facts and trivia from the California Strawberry Commission,

When you get home

  1. DON’T wash the berries until you are ready to use them. Washing makes them more prone to spoiling.
  2. Pour them out into shallow pans and remove any mushed, soft or rotting berries
  3. Put a couple of days supply into the fridge, wash and cut the caps (green tops) off the others and freeze them up! (Unless you’re going to make jam right away) See this page about how to freeze strawberries.
  4. If you like the strawberries you picked, ask the farm what variety they planted, and not the weather conditions the week or two before. The flavor of a strawberry is affected by the variety, the weather and the degree of ripeness when picked.
  5. Now, get ready to make strawberry jam. It is VERY easy – especially with our free strawberry jam instructions – they’re illustrated and easy.

Other weird strawberry facts

  • Strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside.
  • Strawberries were originally called strewberries because the fruit was ‘strewn’ amongst the leaves of the plant.
  • California is king of strawberry productions because: California produces 75 percent of the nation’s strawberry crops; one billion pounds of strawberries each year. If all the strawberries produced in California in one year were laid berry to berry, they would go around the world 15 times. Each acre of land in California in strawberry production produces an average of 21 tons of strawberries annually, with a total of 23,000 acres of strawberries planted in California each year.

More conversions

1 pint (2 cups) of fresh whole strawberries

  • = about 8 oz (1/2 lb) of strawberries
  • = 2.25 cups of sliced strawberries
  • = 1 cup pureed strawberries
  • = 12-14 large strawberries

2 quarts of fresh strawberries are needed for a 9″ pie

A 10 oz package of frozen berries is about the same as 1 cup of sliced fresh strawberries

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