Strawberry time again

This post has been updated for 2014. For a current list of PYO strawberry farms, please click here.

by guest blogger Rich Baringer,

Finally!  For most of the year, we’ve had to buy our 5-year old son, Jake, those supermarket strawberries from California or Florida. They are kind of red (on the outside, at least). They sort of taste like strawberries (basically). They may as well be made of gold for what they cost. But he loves them and there aren’t any other options, right?  Wrong!  At least for the next month or so.

It’s strawberry time again in Bucks County. No need to have a tractor trailer haul your berries across the country, Jake.  Get ready for deep red, juicy, delicious local berries. We’re both very excited about that prospect.

According to many of our local farms, the dreary, rainy weather we’ve had lately has pushed the strawberry season back by a week or two.  But even these last couple days of humid and sunny weather will help to ripen the berries in a hurry.

Pick-Your-Own (PYO) strawberries are available at many local farms beginning anywhere from this week to the first weekend in June.  The season doesn’t last much past the middle of June, although many farms grow a number of varieties with the hope that they become ripe at different times and extend the PYO season.

Pre-picked local strawberries can be bought in many markets in the area–whether they offer PYO or not.  Picking your own, however,  is a lot of fun (and usually cheaper). If you’re heading out to one of the many local farms that have PYO strawberries, here are some tips that may help:

  • Call before showing up at the farm. Depending on the weather, berries may not be ripe or may be picked out. Ask them if you need to bring your own containers. It isn’t a bad idea to check out a farm’s website, which usually has good information about picking times, availability, etc.
  • Only pick firm, plump and fully red berries. Although they will get redder, strawberries won’t ripen or get sweeter after being picked. Grasp the stem just above the berry, between the forefinger and thumbnail. Then pull, with a slight twisting motion. Be gentle putting them in the container–bruising will make them go bad quicker.
  • Help out the farmers by removing any rotten,  partially eaten or other “bad” berries. Wet weather and bird/bug bites will cause rot to quickly spread to the “good” berries.
  • As far as strawberries are concerned, size DOESN’T matter. As long as they are completely red, they’re good to pick. Some even say that the smaller berries taste better.
  • The best time to pick strawberries is early on a cool, cloudy day. They’ll last longer than in the heat. The same goes for you, too, I’m sure.
  • Once picked, keep them out of the sun’s heat as much as possible. Cool them down as soon as you can (bring a cooler and ice packs with you for the ride home). And never wash them until you’re ready to use them—moisture will hasten rotting. Here are some other tips on cleaning strawberries properly.
  • Try not to pile the berries more than 5 inches deep in your container. The ones on the bottom will start to bruise from the weight.
  • Don’t pick more than you’re going to use. Strawberries will quickly mold at room temperature and will only last a couple days in the fridge. If you’re not going to use them right away, wash them, cut off the leaves and freeze them in a zipper bag (be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible before putting them in the freezer).

 

Now that you know the in’s and out’s of PYO strawberries, it’s time to head to the farm. Here’s a list of some of the many Bucks County farms that offer PYO (if there are any we missed, PLEASE let us know and we’ll update the post):

 

“Bobwhite Acres”
3879 East Mill Rd., Coopersburg, PA 18035, 215.679.7756

Brumbaugh’s Farm
2575 County Line Rd., Telford, PA 18969, 215.723.3508

Center Farm
2224 Forest Grove Rd., Furlong, PA 18925, 215.794.7702

Hellerick’s Family Farm
5500 Easton Rd. (Rt. 611), Doylestown, PA 18902, 215.766.8388

Manoff Market Gardens
3157 Comfort Rd., Solebury, PA 18963, 215.297.8220

None Such Farm Market
4458 York Rd. (Rt. 263), Buckingham, PA 18912, 215.794.5201

Peace Valley Winery
300 Old Limekiln Rd., Chalfont, PA 18914, 215.249.9058

Penn Vermont Fruit Farm
Rt. 113 & Rolling Hills Rd., Bedminster, PA 18910, 215.795.0230

Shady Brook Farm
931 Stony Hill Rd., Yardley, PA 19067, 215.968.1670

Solly’s Farm Market
707 Almshouse Rd., Ivyland, PA 18974, 215.357.2850

Tabora Farm & Orchard
1104 Upper Stump Rd., Chalfont, PA 18914, 215.249.3016

The Market at Del Val by Shady Brook Farm
2100 Lower State Road, Doylestown, PA 18901, 215.230.7170

Trauger’s Farm Market
Rt. 611, Kintnersville, PA 18930, 610.847.5702

Jacob & Jayne Wildemore
977 Upper Stump Rd., Chalfont, PA 18914, 215.249.3683

 

Here’s a simple recipe to try from America’s Test Kitchen.  Fresh, local strawberries don’t need much (or anything) to taste great, but this recipe, based on the traditional Italian dish, will enhance the wonderful sweet flavor of the berries.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar
Serves 6

If you don’t have light brown sugar on hand, use an equal amount of granulated sugar.  Serve berries and syrup as is or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream

INGREDIENTS
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice
6 cups (30 oz) strawberries, hulled, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick if large, halved or quartered if small
1/4 cup packed (1 3/4 oz) light brown sugar (see note above)
Ground black pepper

HOW TO

  • Bring the vinegar, granulated sugar and lemon juice to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer until the syrup is reduced by half (about 3 Tbsp), about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl and cool completely.
  • Gently toss the berries and brown sugar in a large bowl.  Let stand until the sugar dissolves and the berries exude some juice, 10-15 minutes.  Pour the vinegar syrup over the berries, add pepper to taste, and toss to combine.  Serve immediately.
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17 COMMENTS

  1. This is a tough one, Melissa, because we have a very damp environment here on the East Coast. What many fruit growers do is a “low spray.” The best way of knowing is to ask what they do, and then make your decision (just, please, don’t judge; they get that a lot, and they are just trying to make a living). But as one local, organic farmer said, “I’d rather buy local, and wash the fruit very well, then buy from somewhere 3000 miles away.” Where available, we’ve provided websites, so see what they say.

  2. Thanks so much for putting this together!! I have been wondering when and where for berries!! I moved here from Texas last year and knew May was prime picking there, but didn’t know the time frame for up here in the PA/NJ area.

  3. Sometimes they don’t update their website regularly. I would suggest giving them a call if you are interested. In the meantime, I’ll look into it. Thanks.

  4. has anyone eaten at Brian’s 9 Kline Court in Lambertville, N.J.? If so what did you think about your dining experience? I have not been there since they will not honor my $25.oo coupon.

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