As much as my family loves to eat strawberries, we’ve never actually gone strawberry picking. We were determined to squeeze it in before summer ended and we finally made it on our last free day before school started this week. There are so many fantastic ways to cook with and eat strawberries, but there’s nothing quite like a juicy berry, warmed by the sun, right off the vine. The best bite on earth? It’s in the running for sure.
It’s a big year for us with our oldest starting kindergarten and the little guy walking and soon off to a daycare routine. It sounds like a cliche to say “where does the time go?” but it’s still totally unbelievable to me how the time flies and how fast the kids grow up right in front of your eyes. As anyone who has sent their little person off to kindergarten knows it conjures up a mix of excitement, pride and wistfulness. Tucking in a few of the prefect little berries that we had picked together on a beautiful summer day into his brand new lunchbox felt like the perfect way to send Luca off to begin an exciting new chapter.
U-Pick with Kids Tips
- Call ahead. With our changing weather conditions, there is more and more unpredictability for crops. It’s best to call a few weeks before the season usually starts to check in. With cherries, the season came much earlier than we expected and we almost missed it. At the very least call before you set off on your trip just to make sure the farm will be open and there will be something to pick. Some of the larger farms have websites, but I’ve found it’s best to call too because the information online is not always up-to-the-minute.
- Keep an eye on the buckets — it’s easy to go overboard. My friend Becky has made strawberry picking an annual tradition in her family. Every year their yield seems creep up and I think this year they picked about 11 pounds which inevitably led to the “ack ….how did we manage to pick this many berries” moment. Luckily an overage of strawberries is not too terrible a problem. You can wash and de-stem them and freeze them in a single layer, then transfer them to a ziplock bag. You can try your hand at making jam or just share them with friends.
- Stooping down to pick strawberries is really hard work which gives you an appreciation for the effort that goes into bringing this food to your table. Even on mild days, you can get overheated, so make sure to wear sunscreen, put on a hat and drink lots of water while you pick.
- Transport and store your fruit with care. Nothing is worse than spending time to pick gorgeous, perfectly ripe fruit, then having it get bruised and smushed on the ride home. You never know what containers will be provided, so bring your own. Storing delicate fruit in a single layer is best. Large cardboard boxtops work well and give your fruit some cushion by lining the boxes with paper towels. If you do multiple layers, separate the layers by paper towels. If your berries will be sitting in a hot car, you may consider bringing a cooler. To maximize the freshness of the berries, don’t wash them until you are about to serve or cook with them.
- Bring boots, a change of clothes, water and towels. Even when the weather is fine, irrigation systems often leave little pools or in our case, giant mud puddles. And you never know what other muddy adventures you may find. Our toddler was gleefully covered in mud from head to toe and it’s anyone’s guess how much strawberry-flavored dirt he ate. There may or may not be a washing station at the farm you visit, so come prepared.
- Bring a big bag for all the muddy stuff. I finally have gotten smart and always throw an old totebag in the car whenever we set off for an outdoor adventure. We can toss in all the muddy stuff in without tracking it all over the car and just worry about the mess later.
What are your favorite u-pick crops and farms? Do you have any expert u-pick tips? We’d love to hear them!
You might also like: Summer Adventure: Fruit U-picks, A Guide to Chestnuts for Newbies: Picking, Roasting and a Few Recipe Ideas, Sonoma Farm Trails: Weekend Along the Farm Trails, Apple Picking & More in Sebastopol, Soooo good! U-Pick Cherries in Brentwood