Strawberry Picking Tips
This month's notes: April 2014: Spring is just around the corner. Strawberries are here in Florida, Texas and California, next in late March and April for much of the South, then in May for most of the country and June in cooler northern areas. See how easy it is to make strawberry jam or strawberry-rhubarb jam!
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. But this past winter has been so mild and Spring of 2012 was so warm, that we may expect strawberries to be up to a month early in many areas. 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 Facts and Tips
- Select plump, firm, fully red berries. The small berries are often most flavorful. Only the berry on the far right is completely ripe.
- 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: 1 quart = 2 pints = 4 cups and is about the same as 1 liter and weighs 1.25 lbs to 1.5 lbs (or 600 to 700 g). The weight varies on variety and weather conditions. 1 quart is normally enough for 4 servings
- One cup of strawberries contains only 43 calories.
- Unripe berries will not ripen once picked.
- 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!
- U-pick strawberry farms typically sell berries by the pound. A quart equals 1 and 1/2 pounds of fresh berries.
- It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to pick a quart, if the berries are reasonably plentiful
- Strawberries were originally called strewberries because the fruit was 'strewn' amongst the leaves of the plant.
- 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:
- 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!
early. On weekends, then fields may be picked clean by NOON!
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
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.
- 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
- Grasp the stem just above the berry between the forefinger and the thumbnail and pull with a slight twisting motion.
- With the stem broken about one-half inch from the berry, allow it to roll into the palm of your hand.
- Repeat these operations using both hands until each holds 3 or 4 berries.
- Carefully place - don't throw - the fruit into your containers. Repeat the picking process with both hands.
- 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:
- Be careful that your feet and knees do not damage plants or fruit in or along the edge of the row.
- Pick only the berries that are fully red. Part the leaves with your hands to look for hidden berries ready for harvest.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- For interesting and fun strawberry facts and trivia from the California Strawberry Commission, click here!
When you get home
- DON'T wash the berries until you are ready to use them. Washing makes them more prone to spoiling.
- Pour them out into shallow pans and remove any mushed, soft or rotting berries
- 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.
- Now, get ready to make strawberry jam. It is VERY easy - especially
with our free strawberry jam
instructions - theyre illustrated and easy.
Illustrated Canning, Freezing, Jam Instructions and Recipes
[ All About Home Canning, Freezing and Making Jams, Pickles, Sauces, etc. ] [FAQs - Answers to common questions and problems] [Recommended books about home canning, jam making, drying and preserving!] [Free canning publications to download and print]