There’s nothing like the fragrance of fresh strawberries wafting in the air, and then the taste of those sweet juicy berries! The season for strawberry picking in Toronto and the GTA is fast approaching and before you know it, it will be time for you and your family to head to your local farm to snag some of these treats. Most people have no problem picking the reddest strawberries at their grocery store, but what about picking berries straight from the field? Local strawberries, grown in Ontario, are a completely different experience.
At our pick-your-own strawberry farm in the GTA, you can select each strawberry yourself when the berries are at their peak. Here’s what you need to know about strawberry season and how to choose the best berries!
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME FOR STRAWBERRY PICKING?
Typically, between mid-June and early August is when you’ll find the freshest, ripest, tastiest strawberries growing in Ontario. However, there are years when the weather is unpredictable, and this timeframe can shift slightly. So check in with the farm for expected opening and closing times for the season as each approach, to make sure you don’t miss out.
STRAWBERRY PICKING TIPS
To be prepared for your strawberry picking day, bring enough water, wear a hat and lather up in sunscreen to prevent your skin from getting burned. Bring your own reusable rigid containers (but not plastic bags) to save on having to buy buckets or baskets. Also, although most pickers don’t bother, if it’s been a bit wet overnight you may find it helpful to bring a mat or a light jacket to lay beneath your knees as you make your way through the berry patch.
Want more tips? Here are some other helpful things to keep in mind as you head out to pick your own strawberries.
TRY IT ON A WEEKDAY
Chances are, unless you arrive first thing in the morning, the strawberry fields will be packed on the weekend. It’s fun to compete against everyone else to get the cream of the crop, but if you want a more laidback experience, try visiting the farm on a weekday when the level of “just perfect” strawberries is at its peak.
It’s important to wear the right clothing when strawberry picking. June and July are known for having some of the hottest days of the year, so dress in clothing that is light but protects your skin from the sun. This includes a hat, sunglasses, loose/protective clothing, and sunscreen all over. Otherwise, you may end up looking as red as the strawberries! Don’t forget your refillable water bottle as well to keep yourself hydrated.
LOOK FOR BRIGHT, RED BERRIES
Unlike some fruits that continue to ripen once they are picked, strawberries stop ripening once they are removed from strawberry plant. If you want the sweetest taste, be sure to look for bright, red berries. The orangey-red with white pieces won’t taste sweet and you may be in for a tart surprise. We should add that some strawberry connoisseurs actually prefer a bit of tartness, especially for use in salads and certain preserves, and some strawberry varieties provide for this by having lower sugar levels than others when they are fully ripe.
DO A TASTE TEST
Although you should certainly not fill up on berries as you pick them, you are encouraged to do a little taste test as you start out. Part of the picking experience is to taste the different kinds of berries based on their firmness, size, and colour. If you’re picking with your family, allow your kids to try a few strawberries. You may want to consider having the younger children wear darker colours on picking days to avoid bright red stains!
CAREFULLY PINCH AND PULL
There is a technique to picking strawberries without squashing the berry, pulling out the plant or taking the top off the berry. First, simply pinch the stem just above the berry and hold it between your forefinger and thumb. With a short firm tug while bending/twisting the berry stem slightly, pull the berry off. If you grab only strawberry itself, you’ll likely press too hard on the fruit and/or pull the berry completely off the stem. Allow the berry to roll into your palm, and repeat these steps until you have a small handful of them. Carefully place these in your container and continue. The more you pick, the more skilled a picker you will become!
DISREGARD THE SIZE
You may think that larger berries have more juice and are therefore sweeter, but when it comes to strawberries, size doesn’t matter. In fact, the smaller the berries, the sweeter they are! Not only do you get more strawberries in your container when you pick the small ones, but since the smaller berries have less water content the sweet flavour will be more concentrated—they will taste delicious.
CHOOSE PLUMP BERRIES
When picking strawberries, be sure to choose those that are plump and have fresh, green leaves. Yellow, dry leaves and shriveled berries are old and the berries may not taste quite as good.
TIPS TO KEEP YOUR STRAWBERRIES FRESH
Once you’ve got your baskets full of fresh, juicy, ripe strawberries, it’s time to preserve them so you can enjoy them longer. To preserve the freshness of your strawberries that will not be used until the next day, you will need to put them in the fridge. Strawberries taste best at room temperature, so take them out for a while before serving. If stored in the fridge, they will last for about two to three days. For long-term storage, you can freeze them and keep them for up to a year. Use a freezer container or place them in durable plastic freezer bags to prevent them from getting freezer burn. Make sure they are washed and air dried before putting them in the freezer.
VISIT ROBINTIDE FARMS THIS STRAWBERRY SEASON
Are you excited to pick the best berries this year? Visit Robintide Farms’ beautiful strawberry fields and enjoy the season with your loved ones. Robintide Farms is a family-owned farm in Vaughan. For over 50 years, we have provided farm-fresh food and other agricultural products. From Brampton to Markham to Toronto and beyond, we are dedicated to offering fresh, healthy, and appetizing farm products to our customers in the GTA.
When you visit our farm, you can pick your own strawberries, raspberries and in-season vegetables, such as green beans, yellow beans, green peas, snow peas, beets, potatoes, kale, swiss chard, and radishes. Along with our farm-fresh produce in the summer, we also provide horse boarding services all year-round.
Robintide Farms is the perfect place to take your family on weekends or even weekdays to show them where their food comes from, how it is produced, and what the benefits are of eating locally grown produce. If you are looking for farm-fresh products near you, then visit our strawberry farm in the GTA or contact us for more info!