Strawberry Picking (and Prepping) 101

Strawberry patch

Strawberry Season!

By Mary Ann Filler

Several days ago, my fellow Off The Merry-Go-Round blogger, Karen, and I went strawberry picking. You may have visions of us with our pint-sized baskets tip toeing through the patch picking a pound or so of berries to serve over vanilla ice cream or shortcake. I can assure you, that is not an accurate picture of our process. Between the two of us, we picked nearly 45 pounds of strawberries!

How could we possibly pick that volume of berries? Well, we are definitely not novices at this pick-your-own process. We have been berry picking together for years, and have had our kids in tow during many of these excursions. Our process has evolved over the years.

Berries... as far as the eye can see!

Berries… as far as the eye can see!

We took large flat top coolers along with plastic containers and baggies to store the berries in as we picked. On our outing the other day, we discussed how quart sized bags were perfect for fitting lots of berries in the cooler while keeping them from getting smashed.  Pick-Your-Own berries are sold by weight (our patch charged $1.90 per pound). When we arrived, the attendant weighed our coolers and marked accordingly. When we finished picking, the initial weight of the cooler was subtracted from the weight of our coolers (now full of berries) to determine how many pounds of strawberries we picked.  Note:  Each Pick-Your-Own patch may have a different “picking protocol.”

In addition to storing the picked berries, the cooler also serves as a useful seat while picking as it can be easily slid down the row as you progress.

You may be wondering how we got out of the patch with all of those berries.  Luckily, our patch had a “gator” that was deployed to pick up our berries and take them to the check out!  If this isn’t an option at your patch, you may want to take a wheeled cooler!

Coolers are key to berry-picking!

Coolers are key to berry-picking!

What did I do with my strawberries?

Prepare for a Variety of Uses

I love to pick local strawberries because I know that I don’t have to worry as much about the heavy pesticides that are often used in cultivating the strawberries grown for groceries.  However, the berries still need to be washed.

Wash the berries in batches using a bath of water and vegetable/fruit cleaner.

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Strawberries in a water and fruit/veggie cleaner bath

After the bath, rinse well…

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Place in a colander to rinse.

…and dry.

Spread Strawberries out on a towel to dry.

Spread Strawberries out on a towel to dry.

Hull or remove the stems.

Hull the Strawberries.

Hull the Strawberries.

Prepare to Eat

Cut the berries to desired size.  Add a sweetener of your choice, if desired, and store in the refrigerator.  After sitting for several hours the berries begin to make a syrup.  Mashing the berries before transferring to the refrigerator will speed up the syrup making process.  These berries are delicious “as is” or spooned over cereal, ice cream, biscuits or shortcake.  This morning, I used my cut berries to make parfaits for breakfast.  Just layer granola, yogurt and strawberries for a nutritious meal or snack.  In celebration of her daughter’s graduation, Karen prepared an angel food cake to top with her berries!

Ready to Eat!

Ready to Eat!

Prepare to Freeze

Place berries that have been washed, dried and hulled on to a cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper.  Place in the freezer for several hours.

IMG_0411Remove from the freezer and place in freezer bags.

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These berries make delicious smoothies or daiquiris!

Strawberry Smoothie Recipe

Note:  Smoothie recipes are very forgiving.  You truly can just throw in a bit of this and that to taste, but below is a basic recipe I make for my family.

Place the following ingredients in a blender and blend.

1 cup plain Greek yogurt (or plain regular yogurt)

1 cup frozen Strawberries (if you’d like, add a frozen banana and/or

blueberries too;-)

2 or more Tbsp. coconut milk (or any other kind of milk)

1 Tbsp. Ground Flax Meal (optional)

½-3/4 Cup of spinach (optional)

Make Jam

You can find many recipes on the internet for making jam.  Strawberry jam can be made by canning or freezing.  I highly recommend making freezer jam as it is easier and there is really no loss of taste versus the canned variety.  Last year I made an easy Sure Jell Freezer Jam Recipe that uses sugar.  It was easy and delicious!  Since last year, I have cut refined sugar out of my diet.  So, yesterday, I made a Strawberry Jam recipe that is sweetened with honey.  The honey sweetened recipe includes directions for canning, but indicates that freezing is an option as well.  It took me a bit longer to make, but at least I can eat it, and it’s yummy!!

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Compost

Just recently, I started composting.  I planted a garden this year and hope that by next spring, I will have some rich compost to add to my garden!  I’m dumping the strawberry hulls in the compost pile!

Compost the hulls!

There are many other strawberry recipes, but those I’ll save for a Strawberry “102” post!!  Enjoy!!!

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One thought on “Strawberry Picking (and Prepping) 101

  1. Oh, yummy! I wish I could have been with you ladies. We go through a similar process at our home when our wild raspberry bushes burst forth with ripe, red berries. I have yet to make jam, yet really would like to try it sometime. When I was growing up, my mother made various jams from the fresh fruit we grew in our orchard and on vines on our farm. We get raspberries by the pound on our property as well so there is plenty to freeze for a “fresh” fruit taste throughout the winter! It would be great if any of our readers also know a fairly simple way of making jam and can share with the rest of us. Anyone?

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