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Pick-Your-Own: It’s Strawberry Season!

One of the best things about visiting Connecticut in June is that it’s time for strawberry picking! We’ve got dozens of pick-your-own farms all around the state. And there’s a bountiful new crop of strawberries ready to be picked.

We spoke to John Lyman of Lyman Orchards in Middlefield for some tips on when and how to make sure you take home the best of the crop.

When is the best time to pick strawberries?

Here in Connecticut, we plant different types of strawberries that yield fruit at different times. So our season runs from early June through early July.

Should I pick at the start of the season or wait?

Early-season strawberries tend to be a little larger than those in the mid- or late season. The mid to late season berries are more medium sized, but the taste is sweet and juicy throughout. So don’t wait. You don’t want to miss them.

Can everyone in the family pick strawberries?

As long an adult is there to help, even little kids can get in on the fun. As a family business, we think this is a great way to give children an opportunity to visit a farm to see first hand where their food comes from and to help them make a connection with their environment too. Just remember to handle the strawberries gently and be careful not to trample the plants.

How do you know a strawberry is ready for picking?

Strawberries will not ripen once they are picked. Choose a strawberry that is plump and has a vibrant red color all over. Strawberries turn red from the top down, so if there is still any green or lightness showing, leave it to ripen a little longer.

Is there a technique for strawberry picking?

You want to handle the strawberries and strawberry plants gently. Move carefully from plant to plant, lifting carefully to look under the top leaves for those delicious prizes underneath. You’ll likely find ripe red berries on the same stem as green (still-ripening) ones.

To pick, just put your hand over the berry and gently pinch it off at the base of the stem, but leave the green leafy top on the strawberry. Just be careful not to remove any green berries on the stem, so they will continure to ripen.

Should I rinse them right away when I get home?

Don’t rinse them until you’re ready to eat them. Water can speed up spoiling, so it’s best to keep them in a cool dry place and then run them under cool water just before you’re ready to eat or use in a recipe.

How do I store them to make them last?

Unlike many fruits, strawberries don’t ripen after they’re picked. So once you pick the fully mature, red berries, store them in a cool place. They should last about a week in the refrigerator.

Any easy recipes for using fresh strawberries?

We’ve got some great ideas and recipes to hand out when you visit. One of the easiest and most popular is the Strawberry Smoothie:

  • ¾ cup skim milk
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 carton (14 oz.) vanilla frozen yogurt
  • Blend until smooth. Makes 3 servings.

Can you freeze strawberries and use them later?

Yes! Gently wash them and drain them well on a paper towel. Once they’re dry, place in the freezer in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once they freeze, you can store them in containers and take them out whenever you want a quick treat.

John Lyman III is a member of the 8th generation of Lyman Family to farm the land in Middlefield, CT. Celebrating the farm’s 275th anniversary in 2016, Lyman Orchards is recognized as the 12th oldest family run business in the United States. Get directions to Lyman Orchards or find a pick-your-own farm closer to home.

You can also a list of pick-your-own farms throughout Connecticut here.

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