It’s strawberry picking season in many southern states and will soon be time to pick strawberries here in the Midwest. Strawberry season is usually in spring and early summer and only lasts three to four weeks so don’t miss out. A quick strawberry search at upickfarmlocator.com results in a list of over 100 farms offering pick your own strawberries. Search in your state to find a U-Pick Strawberry Farm near you, grab your bucket, and go strawberry picking.
Make a day of it; take the entire family to a local u-pick strawberry farm for some summer fun. Plan to pick enough to eat fresh and some extras to freeze or can to enjoy later. Call ahead or check the farm’s website for current picking conditions. Most farms will provide picking buckets or you can take your own. It is best to go strawberry picking in the morning before the day gets too hot, keeping the berries cool will help them last longer.
Picking strawberries is easy, but be prepared to “go low”. You will need to stoop down or kneel on the ground to reach the ripe berries. Kids make great strawberry pickers because they are already lower to the ground and they are way more flexible than us “older folks”. Children have fun using the one-for-me-one-for-the-bucket technique.
You want to pick fully colored berries, as strawberries do not continue to ripen very much once picked. Strawberries are a very tender fruit and need to be handled gently to avoid bruising. To pick, grasp the stem just above the berry between your forefinger and thumbnail and pull with a slight twisting motion. Allow the berry to roll into the palm of your hand. Gently place the berries in your bucket being careful not to overfill the containers to prevent crushing the delicate fruit. Pick only berries that are fully red and firm, not overripe and mushy.
Cool the strawberries as soon as possible and don’t wash them until you are ready to use them. Strawberries will stay fresh for three days in the refrigerator, but after that, they deteriorate quickly. If you pick more berries than you can eat fresh you can freeze or can them for future use. Frozen strawberries can be used in a variety of desserts and fruit smoothies. You can also make frozen strawberry jam or follow a recipe for canning jam and preserves. There is something very satisfying about popping open the lid of a jar of strawberry jam in January.