ST. PAUL — It looks like a great weekend to plan a picking party at one of Minnesota’s strawberry farms. Ripe, juicy strawberries are always a homegrown favorite and growers say they’re open and ready for business.
“It’s shaping up to be a very good berry crop,” says Paul Hugunin, Director of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Minnesota Grown Program. “Unfortunately the recent rainy days have kept consumers away so growers are urging them to come on out while the picking is prime.”
Hugunin says picking conditions can vary from farm to farm and change from day to day depending on weather and field conditions so consumers are advised to call the farm or visit their website to verify conditions and hours.
Most growers allow you to pick-your-own or will pick the berries for you if you place an order ahead of arrival. Some other picking tips before you go:
• Select only plump, firm, fully ripe berries. Smaller berries usually have the most flavor.
• Find out if you need to bring your own containers for picking, and ask if children are welcome.
• Most farms sell berries by the pound.
• Don’t heap the containers too full — you can easily bruise the berries on the bottom.
• Remember berries will only last a couple of days in the refrigerator. For fresh-tasting local berries year-round, plan to freeze extra berries or make jam or jelly within a day or two of purchase.
Consumers will find nearly 100 strawberry patches and pick-your-own farms listed in the 2011 Minnesota Grown Directory. Searching online at www.minnesotagrown.com makes it easy to locate a farm, get directions and contact information to call ahead. You can also sign up online for the Pick-of-the-Month newsletter which features information on the strawberry season, berry recipes and storage tips.
A free printed copy of the Minnesota Grown Directory can also be ordered by calling 1-888-Tourism.