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Strawberry Picking Tips, Facts and Recipes

strawberry pick-your-own field

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

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 onstrawberries shown in different stages of ripeness 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 1.25 lbs to 1.5 lbs (or 600 to 700 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� cups hulled, whole berries. In other words, removing the caps/hulls and the occasional mushy berry means you lose 1/4 cup or about 7 to 10% 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.crowded parking at a strwberry u-pick field
  • 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. strawberry picking bucket from Washington FarmsMost 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.

    strawberries, just picked from the fieldIf 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.Sttawberry bush with ripe strawberries, up close

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 to pick strawberries

  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

close-up of the rows in a strawberry patch at at PYO strawberry fieldWhether 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, click here!

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.



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