*This column was originally posted in June of 2016.
June is strawberry season in the Berkshires, and nothing signals summer’s arrival like strawberry shortcake piled high with whipped cream and succulent strawberries you picked yourself! One of the best ways for the whole family to enjoy the relatively short, but wonderful strawberry season is to visit a “u-pick” farm. The closest is Mountain View Farm on Chester Road in Lanesborough (a three-minute drive north from the Berkshire Mall). Operated by Mike and Peg Weslowski since 1994, the farm officially opened for the season last Wednesday, offering visitors who come from as far away as Boston and Albany access to six acres to pick from.
“Typically the season starts around Father’s Day and goes through the Fourth of July, depending on the heat and the weather,” said Mike Weslowski, who runs the stand with his extended family.
Mountain View is open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. on weekends, weather permitting. The cost is $2.25 per pound of pick your own/$ 5.50 a quart pre-picked. Call ahead at (413) 445-7642 or check the website for up to date picking info.
For a tremendous resource on local picking conditions, check out Berkshire Grown’s Facebook page and “Map-o-licious” guide to pick-your-own farms in the area.
If picking isn’t to your fancy, you can grab fresh pre-picked berries at the stand or at venues such as Lanesborough Market, The Bradley Farm and Wheeler’s Market. This year Bob’s Country Kitchen will be incorporating Mountain View berries into the restaurant’s signature barbecue sauce.
Tips to Make Your Strawberry Picking Outing a Success
- Weslowski advises visitors to pick all sizes; the “first bloom” is the king berry and largest but the sweetest come in smaller varieties.
- Try not to pick the berries if they’re wet; this can lead to premature spoiling.
- Use one of the cardboard cartons supplied by the stand. You can bring your own bag, but the berries won’t keep as well.
- Be careful not to over-purchase. Strawberries quickly attract mold when left at room temperature and only last a couple of days in the refrigerator.
- Have a plan to can, make preserves or freeze any leftover berries if you are buying more than your family will eat in a day.
- Strawberries can be frozen. Simply wash, cut the hulls and pop them in a zip lock back removing as much air as possible and they’ll keep for many months.
Fun Strawberry Measurements
We at Berkshire Family Focus are big fans of fun STEM activities for kids, so why not turn your berry picking outing as an educational opportunity? Here are some useful measurement facts:
- Strawberries you pick on your own are often sold by the pound. 1 lb. of fresh strawberries = 2/3rds of a quart
- You’re likely to lose ¼ cup or about 7 to 10 percent of every quart when considering the occasional mushy berry and removal of stems/hulls
- It takes 15 minutes to pick a quart if the berries are reasonably plentiful
- 1 quart weighs 1.25 to 1.5 lb.
- 1 quart is normally enough for 4 servings
Grow your own
If you’re reading this column today, the window for planting June-bearing strawberry plants has closed. But next year give some thought to planting some of your own strawberry plants; it’s a great way to get kids involved, from planting, watering and harvesting.
To grow strawberries successfully give them full sunshine, evenly moist, well-drained soil and an area without weeds. If space in the backyard is tight, you can grow them in containers. If you do, move them into an unheated garage around Thanksgiving and them back outside after the snow melts. When replanted, be sure to cover the strawberries with straw (hence their name!) as a way to discourage weed growth and retain moisture.
There are plenty of places to get strawberry plants here in the Berkshires, from Whitney’s Farm Stand in Cheshire to Home Depot in Pittsfield. We ended up going down to Ward’s Nursery in Great Barrington, which had a vast selection of vegetable and fruit plants to pick from. My family settled on a few June-bearing strawberry plants, which are by far the most popular and the ones you’ll see in most stores. They produce a very large crop of decent sized fruits over the course of a two-to-three weeks.
The fruit we harvested has been very sweet (the girls ate strawberries with yogurt and cereal.) Our big mistake was planting too few plants (next year we’ll boost the number of plants to 20, the recommended number of plants to keep a family of four well stocked with fruit.)
Ten strawberry fun facts for kids
Did you know?
- Strawberries aren’t technically berries like blueberries or apples. Technically, a berry has its seeds on the inside.
- The average berry having approximately 200 seeds on the outside. Maybe that explains why every time you take a bite, chances are you’ll get seeds stuck in your teeth!
- Strawberries belong to the rose family! How many berries do you know smell as sweet as they taste?
- The ancient Romans believed strawberries had healing properties. They used them to treat bad breath, sore throats, fainting, fever and kidney stones!
- Americans eat an average of three-and-half pounds of fresh year strawberries per year. Counting frozen berries, the number is closer to five pounds per year!
- More than half of all nine year olds count strawberries as their favorite fruit, based on a recent survey. What do your kids think?
- Strawberry plants are a perennial. Plant one this year and they’ll come up year after year!
- Belgium is home to the world’s only Strawberry Museum Le Musée de la Fraise.
- Strawberries are a health food, low in calories, high in vitamins C, B, K, folic acid, potassium and amino acid.
- Native Americans ate strawberries long before European settlers arrived. As spring’s first fruit, they were a treat, eaten freshly picked or baked into cornbread.