I just took a shower last night and noticed that I have a nasty stripe of bright pink sunburn on my back just above the waistline of my shorts. I know this mark well. In my farm worker days, we used to call it the “sunset tan” because it resembled a sunset by starting in a distinct horizon line and then gradually faded out as it went upward. (Maybe this is the farming equivalent of a tramp stamp?) I spent a couple hours picking strawberries yesterday, my third time this week, and unbeknownst to me, my shirt was riding up a little, exposing a bit of ultra-white winter flesh to the full, 80° sunshine. I think I’ll live through this experience (like I have million times before).
I picked at Greengable Gardens. Their patch is pretty small, and the operation is mostly self-serve. The picking was okay, and the berries tasted pretty good, though hopefully they’ll get a bit sweeter with more sunshine. It was obvious that the patch had been picked over in the days prior, and there were at least seven other adults already there when I showed up.
After the harvest, I spent almost an equal amount of time washing and dehulling most of the lot and then froze them in a single layer on a baking sheet (like I did two years ago here). I’ll pull them out at some later time for jam or pie or whatever.
I would like to just say a few words about U-picking etiquette. This is going to make me sound like a grumpy old lady, but maybe that’s just my true character, so I’m saying it anyway.
A) If the place where you’re picking has no assigned rows, and it’s large and uncrowded, you are free to harvest willy-nilly wherever you want. If, however, the patch is small and there are a lot of people there, please choose a row and mostly stick to it. Yesterday, I found an unoccupied row and started picking along when all of a sudden I looked up, and the guy from the neighboring row was picking in my row about five feet ahead of me. I was super annoyed, but I just moved over to the next (unoccupied) row and continued on until the same guy jumped into my row AGAIN right in front of me. Then I took my bowl and moved to the other side of the patch.
B) It’s totally okay to bring your kids berry picking. I do it all the time and also have great memories of accompanying my parents on berry picking expeditions when I was little. If you are going to bring your kids, however, please please PLEASE make sure they are under your control at all times and not wrecking things or getting into trouble. Yesterday, there was a mom with a maybe two year old who I barely even noticed, but there were also two mom friends with three kids each. The gang of six children was running back and forth across the rows and through the flower beds, stomping on whatever was in their path. One of the moms was making a half-hearted effort to keep them from wreaking havoc on the place, but the other mom didn’t seem to care much. About halfway through picking, I looked up to see that all six of them had descended on a full bucket of strawberries that I had set aside in the shade and were stuffing handfulls of berries in their mouths. I walked over and very politely told them that those were my berries and could they please not eat them. One kid told me they thought someone had left it behind, which still wasn’t a good enough excuse to think they could eat them, but whatever. A minute later, one of the moms noticed what was happening and came over apologizing and offering me some of her own berries to top off my bucket. That was a very nice and appropriate gesture, but I kinda wished we could have avoided the situation altogether. My kids aren’t perfect little angels. They might do the same thing if left unsupervised, which is why parents really need to keep an eye on their kids at all times. There are plenty of adults that waste fruit, damage property, and annoy other customers, too, but when kids do it, it gives all of us parents who bring our children along with us to the berry patch a bad reputation.
There are other issues about dogs, bathroom habits, and eating berries while picking (that I feel is totally acceptable up to a point) that I won’t get into here. Feel free to add your won U-picking pet peeves in the comments. I curious to hear of your experiences. Overall, though, I do think that U-picking is absolutely the way to go if you can’t or don’t want to grow your own. And you really can’t beat $1 per pound of strawberries!