When I was a kid, we lived a short drive – or even a bike ride – from Saunders Farm, one of the original pick your own strawberry farms of the Ottawa area. When the wind blew just right, we could catch the scent of berries in the air (which was much better than when it blew wrong, let me tell you). And what coolness, the owner was my kindergarten teacher. So for several weeks in early summer the strawberry farm was a common place for us to spend a few hours on the weekends. We’d head home with containers piled high with juicy red little bites of summer, certain of strawberries and ice cream for dessert.
Now, it’s a little harder to get to the strawberry farms as we’re in a pretty urban area. But they’re still just a drive away. A couple of weekends ago (okay, I’ve been slow here again, it’s been quite the week here!) we took the kids to Emma Lea Farms. The weather was great – sunny, but not too hot, and there was a fresh sea-scented breeze wafting over the island. There had been enough rain that the berries were plump, and gathering sweetness by the minute from the bright sunshine. Even though it was a gorgeous Sunday on the Canada Day long weekend, it still wasn’t noticeably busy. Sure, there were lots of families around the ice cream stand, but there was lots of parking, and the fields were far from picked clean.
Things haven’t changed much in the world of strawberry picking. Only now, I’m the mom. It wasn’t exactly exciting as a kid, and it’s way more work when you’re the parent. But that’s okay. The kids got to pick heaps of strawberries, and munched on a few (unlike my Saunders memories, this farm discouraged sampling). And those heaps of strawberries didn’t take long for me and Leif to clean and slice. They’re frozen now, ready for smoothies, pies, maybe even a small batch of jam! Some got eaten fresh though, with ice cream. So much better than the relatively tasteless ones that are shipped up from California and Mexico year-round.
If you go …
Don’t forget hats, sunscreen, and water bottles!
Bring containers. Some farms have them on-hand, some charge. If you bring your own, get them to tare it (weigh it, and record how much it weighs) before you head to the fields, or you’ll pay for the weight of the container with your berries.
If a field in a working farm is closed, it is closed for a reason.
Try to pick a row, and pick it clean – meaning, don’t leave ripe berries behind to rot, unpicked, because someone thought the row was already done.
Remember that fresh picked berries aren’t going to last long. Bring a cooler to get them home in, and plan to do something with them that day.
Call ahead to find out what berries are available. Many farms have other berries coming into season.