It’s strawberry time! It’s hard for this Ohio girl to say this in May.
No, I don’t have special strawberries that ripen early, I’ve moved south and I’m just getting accustomed to having foods ripen earlier than I’ve known my whole life. Needless to say, no matter what the date, when they’re ripe I like to get out and pick a few pounds for fresh eating and put some in the freezer.
Picking my own strawberries is an annual excursion and a great feeling of accomplishment. I love being in the outside in the patch enjoying the weather and smelling the fresh fruit. I also feel good about buying locally because the fruit is fresher and I support my community. Pick-your-own prices around us have been about $1.30 a pound. I always wonder if it’s cheaper to buy the already picked quarts selling at the farmer’s market or to do-it-myself.
It’s easy to do some quick math to answer that question. It’s not exact, due to the moisture, size and variety of the strawberries, but usually you get about 1.5 pounds of berries in every quart. Give or take a few. So, if you’re picking your own, you can multiply the cost per pound by 1.5 to get the amount per quart of the berries. At $1.30 a pound, pick-your-own berries are a little less than $2 a quart. Don’t forget you should also consider your time, gas and energy as part of the cost. But sunshine and physical activity are also the benefits!
I remember a couple years ago I stopped by a local discount store after picking berries and the price of their berries per quart were less than what I picked per pound. But, I felt good about buying my local berries. I had a wonderful outside activity, too. I knew my pick-yourself berries were fresher, tasted better, and had more nutrition. I was supporting a local farmer and economy. If you’re interested learning about the value of purchasing locally, the University of Nebraska Lincoln has a great resource on the topic, check it out at: http://food.unl.edu/web/localfoods/why-buy-local
A couple tips if you’re picking your own:
- The berries should have a full, red color, bright luster and firm, plump flesh.
- Choose only fully ripe berries—unlike some other fruits, berries do not ripen after being picked.
- Get the berries home as soon as possible; don’t let them set in the trunk of your car while you do other errands. If you need to be out longer consider bringing a cooler to store them until you can get them home.
- For longest shelf life, take them out of large buckets and pails and gently arrange in shallow containers and put in the refrigerator immediately.
- Don’t wash or remove the green cap until just before you’re ready to use.
- Use berries as soon as possible after getting them home.
No matter where you live, when it’s strawberry time, I highly recommend getting out and enjoying it! If the pick-your-own growers allow, take the kids or grandkids with you to help. What a great way to show them how food is grown. Just think how proud you’ll all be when they say “I picked these myself.”
Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University
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