The strawberry season in northeast Ohio is short, but very sweet. If you have never gone strawberry picking, you are in for a real treat. You simply cannot compare the succulent taste of fresh picked strawberries to those you buy at the grocery store. Early each summer, the kids and I head out to a local pick your own farm and pick all the strawberries we can carry. We use a lot of the berries in pies, shortcakes, on cereal, and in smoothies. However, the majority of our berries go into freezer jam.
We have picked at several different farms in northeast Ohio. Last year, one of my friends recommended Monroe’s Orchard in Hiram, Ohio. It has become our family’s new favorite place to pick strawberries. Monroe’s strawberries are larger than what I have found at the three other farms we have tried and just as sweet, if not sweeter. Monroe’s orchard is extremely family friendly. Like many other strawberry farms, they assign your group to a row. Each row is marked with a flag to indicate how far down it has been picked, ensuring you are picking in a row with red, ripe berries. Plus the grounds and surrounding area is beyond beautiful.
Before you head out to the field, check in at the store. If you have brought your own containers, they will weigh them before you head out to ensure you are only paying for the strawberries you pick and not the weight of your container. If you prefer, you can purchase boxes with handles for your strawberries for $1.50 each. I prefer the boxes, because the handles make them easy to carry, and they are not too deep so the berries on the bottom don’t get crushed.
It took us (one adult and four kids) about 45 minutes to pick three boxes of delicious strawberries. After you have finished picking, you head back to the store to have your berries weighed and to pay. For the 2016 season, pick your own strawberries are $2 per pound.
Monroe’s Orchard store also offers pre-picked strawberries as well as other country store offerings such as jams, syrup made on-site, and other country foods.
In addition to pick your own strawberries, Monroe’s Orchard also has several other pick your own options such as raspberries, peaches, pumpkins, and apples when in season. They also host a yearly apple festival at the end of September.
My family loves picking strawberries at Monroe’s. However, no matter where you decide to pick here are some helpful tips to have a successful picking adventure:
Five Tips for Successful Strawberry Picking
- Call Ahead – Many strawberry farms are open for pick your own one day then close for a few days for the berries to mature and reopen. Additionally, often farms will close for the day when all the berries are picked or if there are not many pickers in the fields. Since many of the farms are a bit of a drive from Cleveland, you don’t want to arrive at a farm only to find they are closed for the day. In addition, you should inquire about their container policy. If you can bring your own, or do they provide/sell them on site.
- Go Early – Not only will you get the best berries (although most farms now monitor the rows to ensure you are not picking in the same row as other groups have picked), but you will also beat the heat. Even on cooler days, strawberry fields always seem warmer. They are in full sun to ripen the berries.
- Wear Sunscreen and Protective Clothing – Strawberry fields are not shaded. Don’t forget the sunscreen or you too will look like a strawberry.
- Bring Water – I think you can see a trend…strawberry fields are warm and sunny.
- Have a Plan to Use Your Berries – Fresh berries do not have all the preservatives of those you buy at the grocery. So be sure to have a plan to use them in 2-3 days for optimal flavor and to avoid losing any of your strawberries. We love making freezer jam and get to enjoy our harvest all year long. You can also freeze strawberries after removing the stems for smoothies.
The 2016 strawberry season is expected to last a few more weeks in northeast Ohio. I hope you make it out to pick some of your own.