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The Strawberry Picking Rules (’cause it’s not as simple as you think)

December 12, 2023

how to pick strawberries by rochelle greayer
My mom and dad – always hands-on helpers – this time picking epic strawberries from the garden. (but of course, following the strawberry picking rules)

When you have picked as many vats of strawberries as we have (this year is just unbelievable!), you find there are a few things that just keep coming out of your mouth, again and again, each time a new picker comes into the garden…I’ve even heard my kids repeating these simple directives to their friends.  

It strikes me as odd that there are things to know about strawberry picking – that might not be completely obvious — but there are, and if you come strawberry picking in our garden, these are the things that someone will say to you.

How to Pick Strawberries – The Rules in Our Berry Patch

Our strawberry berry patch is huge – and it is that way because it is healthy and thriving despite all efforts to contain and control it. The strawberries love the sunny spot, and they also seem to like the gravel I installed in the rows between garden beds. They have basically taken over – like a groundcover with benefits – you can read all about how we came to have the current strawberry situation here.

1) Be thorough.

Berries hide and can be nestled down in the mulch or leaf litter, so take the time to run your hand over each plant, hook your fingers on the little stems to pull up each cluster to find the hidden treasures, and then once you’ve gone over an area, go over it again from a different angle. There are always more. We are convinced ours go from green to red in a matter of seconds.

There is a reason to be thorough – beyond not wanting to miss any good berries….and that is rot…

You don’t want rot – it spreads fast!

2) Get rid of any rotten or moldy berries.

This spreads quickly, too, and taking the time to pluck off the bad berries to toss them away will keep any sort of nastiness from spreading, engulfing your patch, and lengthening your harvest.

Two bowls of strawberries on a stone walkway. How to pick strawberries - the rules - homegrown by rochelle greayer

3) Pick often (like at least every couple of days).

The more you pick, the more you get. If you leave berries, not only will they mold, and the mold will spread, but the plants will stop producing.

4) Don’t fret about picking less than 100% red berries.

Don’t try to go out and pick green ones, but if you grab a berry that is pink or only half red, it is our lived experience that they will ripen on your kitchen counter within 24 hours. You don’t have to do anything – they will ripen overnight, all on their own.

I’ve read on other websites that strawberries do not ripen after being picked… all I can say is that my first-hand experience proves this to be one of those patently false things that people say on websites and then other people repeat without checking.

(and then AI thinks this is true because AI isn’t actually smart enough actually to grow strawberries – and AI doesn’t have a garden with plants – it is just part of the same dumb hive mind as a bunch of SEO saavvy bloggers and niche site builders who think gardening is just a money-making scheme and that they can write a bunch AI crap and get lots of traffic – and they are not wrong. But I digress.)

Bottom Line: A bowl of homegrown, mostly red strawberries left on the counter overnight will be a bowl of deep, even redder, strawberries the next morning. If you don’t believe me, read this.

5) This brings me to my next point – you must eat strawberries as you pick.

The best berries are those that are just picked and that have been slightly warmed in the sun. Those that go in the bowl should probably be eaten or preserved within 36 hours, or they will just rot in wait. Refrigeration helps (if you can fit them in your frig) but plan to deal with them quickly. Homegrown berries are generally not like store-bought berries….they taste 9 million times better, but they don’t keep as long. It is a trade-off that is totally worth it.

6) Get the stems.

When you pick, make sure you have at least picked so that the little green hat comes away with the berry, but go for a bit of the stem as well.  This will help the berries keep longer.

7) If they are red, pick them.

You might wonder – do strawberries get bigger after they turn red? The answer is no – They don’t get bigger after they turn red. This is also one of those places where size doesn’t matter, the little guys can blow your mind so don’t avoid them based purely on stature.

Image by Rochelle Greayer on Instagram.

More Fresh-from-the-garden Advice and stories you might enjoy:

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