On your vacation to the Grand Strand, you might enjoy taking your family strawberrying. It is a great family activity and gets you out into the fresh country air. May is usually the optimal time for the Strawberry harvest in the south, but there can be significant variability in harvest times depending on the variety of strawberry that is planted.
Strawberry picking peak times also varies regionally by state, and weather can dramatically affect production as well. Since it was really cold this winter on the Grand Strand, the strawberry picking season was pushed back a little, so always check with your local Pick Your Own Strawberries operations before going to pick strawberries. Also, during peak season, a strawberry field can be picked clean before noon
More specifically, the time of day you pick your strawberries is very important. If you plan to use or eat them immediately, they can be picked at any time. However, if you don’t plan to use them for a couple of days, you should pick them in the coolest part of the morning or on a more temperate, cloudy day. Picking strawberries on a hot, sunny day will result in them softening and spoiling more rapidly.
Picking strawberries at a local farm is much cleaner and healthier than buying them in your grocery stores. First, you get the freshest strawberries. Second, they have a wealth of knowledge about the strawberry plants they grow. Lastly, you can talk to the person who grew them to find out about their growing practices.
Commercially grown strawberries are usually subjected to pesticides, fungicides and trace chemicals to maximize the production of the strawberries. These chemicals are not put on the labels, and even after washing, there is a significant amount of unnatural chemicals left on the strawberries. “In fact, commercial strawberries bought in the store make the infamous ‘dirty dozen’ list each year. This is a list of the 12 most contaminated common foods.” (strawberry.org)
Usually a local strawberry farm uses much less chemicals in the cultivation of strawberry plants, growing cleaner berries. Some Pick Your Own operations offer organically grown strawberries for you to pick. Also, picking your own strawberries can result in more flavorful berries, because the smaller, more flavorful strawberries are often culled out and only the larger, less flavorful berries get shipped to the stores.
Although strawberry picking is not difficult, it does require some planning to make sure that you get the most out of your trip. There are a few things that you need to do before you leave for the strawberry fields.
1. Call the Pick Your Own (or U-Pick) Farm:
The weather affects the strawberry production (rain and temperature) more than most other fruits and vegetables. Also, large crowds can pick a field of strawberries clean in no time. If the farm only sells strawberries, their hours might vary based on the strawberry availability. The owners or people that run the strawberry picking operation should be able to tell you if it is worth your time to make the trip.
When you call, be sure to verify the hours of operation, strawberry availability, directions to the strawberry picking field and the method of payment that is accepted. Some places do not take credit cards.
2. Take into Account Time Considerations:
Strawberry picking can be time consuming depending on how many you plan to pick and how quickly you pick the strawberries. It takes between ten to fifteen minutes to find and pick a quart of ripe strawberries, which means it could take up to an hour to pick a gallon of strawberries if they are abundant. Calling the owner of the operation can help you determine the length of time it will take you to pick the amount of strawberries you desire.
By knowing how many strawberries you want and how long it will take you to pick them, you will be able to determine if you are going to have enough time to pick all of them. If time is limited, you can usually buy pre-picked strawberries by the pound. A quart of strawberries usually weighs approximately 1.5 pounds.
You should also plan to get there as early in the morning as possible. This will ensure that you get the best berries and that you pick them during the coolest part of the day to prevent them from getting soft and spoiling. If you arrive in the afternoon on a weekend in peak season, you might find only a field full of unripe berries.
3. Know Your Goals and Pick Strawberries Accordingly:
It is important to determine how many strawberries you will need for cooking, processing, or eating fresh. Once you decide how many strawberries you will need, try not to over pick. Strawberries have a very short shelf life and will start to mold quickly if left at room temperature. They will remain edible for two or three days if refrigerated. Picking too many berries will result in a waste of your time and money.
4. Take Any Equipment You May Need While Picking Strawberries:
Most Pick Your Own operations have containers that you can use, but they usually charge for them, so to avoid extra cost, take your own containers. Any container will work but be sure that you do not stack your strawberries to a height of five inches. Stacking to this height or higher will result in bruising the strawberries on the bottom of the pile.
Make sure that the containers you take are sturdy. The inexpensive aluminum baking containers may seem to be a good option but avoid them. Once they are full, they might bend causing you to dump all of your fresh picked strawberries back in the field. The best containers are the firmer plastic containers or metal baking pans that have sides at least three inches high. Pots can be used, but they tend to be a little heavy to carry around the strawberry field.
Strawberry plants do not grow tall, so you will either be picking them sitting, squatting, bending over or kneeling. If you plan to sit or kneel, you might consider knee pads or a garden cushion for comfort and cleanliness
5. Plan for Good Strawberry Picking Weather!
It will probably be a warm, sunny day when you go strawberry picking, so take a hat and sunscreen, so you do not get sunburned. Also, take water to keep you hydrated, and you might need a snack depending on how many strawberries you plan to pick. During the day, there should not be insects, but just in case, take a bug repellent.
Choosing the Right Strawberries to Pick
When picking strawberries, it is important to pick the right strawberries. Always choose plump and firm strawberries, and make sure that the strawberries are completely red as well. Unlike some vegetables, strawberries do not continue to ripen after they have been picked. To be sure the strawberry is ready to pick, look at the tip of the strawberry. If it is completely red, the strawberry is ready to eat.
How to Pick Strawberries
Strawberry picking is most successful when the picker applies the minor technical aspects of picking strawberries to the task at hand. Here is how to pick strawberries:
- Hold the stem of the strawberry at about one half of an inch above the berry between your thumbnail and index finger while cradling the fruit in your palm.
- Sever the stem sever the stem with pressure from your thumbnail while slightly twisting the stem.
- Allow the strawberry (including the cap and stem) gently roll down into your palm. If you are ambidextrous, use your other hand for strawberry picking at the same time using the same procedure.
- Repeat step three until both palms are full of strawberries.
- Gently place your handfuls of picked strawberries into your chosen container. Don’t press the strawberries or heap them over five inches.
- Repeat the entire process until you have accomplished your strawberry picking goals or are tired of picking strawberries. (http://www.pickyourown.org)
Strawberry Care After Picking
Strawberries need to be kept out of the sun once picked. They should not be placed in the car due to the heat that builds up inside the car while parked. Find some shade to place your picked strawberries in until you have finished picking all of the strawberries you plan to pick and are ready to go.
Once you get home, gently pour the strawberries on a table or into a pan to sort. Throw away any rotten strawberries and either eat or throw away any squashed berries. Put the rest in the refrigerator as soon as possible without washing them. Wash them just prior to using them or eating them. Washing them hastens the spoiling process. Eat the strawberries in the refrigerator within a couple of days or they will lose their flavor, color, and will shrivel, rot or get moldy.
If you get more than you can eat in a couple of days, you can freeze them for later use. To freeze them, wash them, cut off the green caps, and place them in a plastic bag. Be sure to get as much of the air out of the bag as you can before you seal it. Then put them in the freezer.
Pick Your Own Strawberry Operations on the Grand Strand
Bellamy Farms, 4347 S. C. 9, Loris, South Carolina, Hours of Operation: Open everyday 8:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Phone: 843-756-6741
Hyman Vineyards, 6027 Old Buckville Road, Conway, South Carolina, Hours of Operation: Tuesday – Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Phone: 843-450-3641
Home Sweet Farm, 1101 Highway 67 W, Loris, South Carolina, Hours of Operation: Open everyday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Phone: 843-333-0460 or 843-254-5560
Tyler’s Produce, 4800 US 378, Conway, South Carolina, Hours of Operation: Monday – Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Phone: 843-397-6362
Indigo Farms, 1542 Hickman Road NW, Calabash, North Carolina, Hours of Operation: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Daily, Phone: 810-287-6794
Now that you know all you need to know about strawberry picking SC, grab your supplies, load up the family, and take a trip out to the farm to pick your strawberries. Make sure to call first, enjoy the fresh air, and happy strawberrying!