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Best Ever Guide to Strawberry Picking in BC
Welcome to your Best Ever Guide to Strawberry Picking in BC!
Nothing is as sweet as strawberry season. Perhaps that’s why strawberries are one of Canada’s most popular fruits. According to Walmart Canada, the average Canadian consumes about 3 kg of strawberries every single year.
However, they are not only delicious, they are aromatic, feature a unique appearance, and are essentially considered a hybrid fruit. More on that later! Additionally, just as a general flavour, strawberry is popular for everything from ice cream and candy, to fruit punch and popsicles. There’s hardly anything that can’t be made better with strawberries, but eating these delicious morsels fresh from the patch will likely always be the most popular way to indulge in this tasty treat.
You may think that those cold Canadian winters are counterproductive with regard to strawberry growing, but the BC Strawberry Growers Association proudly boasts over 48 growers who have operated for over three decades on a collective 600 acres to produce some of the best strawberries you could ever hope to taste. If strawberry picking is on your list of things to do in British Columbia, the following information will help you plan your outing.
Harvest Season for Strawberries
Virtually all strawberry varieties are picked from June to early August, so you can plan your excursion for virtually any time during the traditional summer season. You’ll find that there are several great varieties from which to choose, and each one offers its own, distinct characteristics. Don’t limit yourself to just one variety, though. Try several or challenge yourself to pick some of each throughout British Columbia’s beautiful summer season.
There are over 600 varieties of strawberries throughout the world, but as you may suspect, not all grow in every country. Most are surprisingly similar in appearance with regard to colour, but size usually varies from one type to the next.The following are the most popular strawberry varieties in British Columbia, and each one is unique in its own way:
Benton strawberries are primarily known for their super sweet flavour and petite size. Because of these two characteristics, they are frequently used to decorate cakes and pies, as well as hors d’oeuvre trays, where appearance is everything. July is the best month for picking Benton strawberries, and they are delicious when eaten fresh, but are also a great choice for cooking and baking.
Also making its debut in July, Puget summer strawberries are best known for their firm texture and sweet flavour. They are somewhat sturdier than many other strawberry varieties, making them great for slicing and freezing. They are also popular to add to breakfast cereal. A bit less juicy than other varieties, this type of strawberry is nonetheless a very tasty choice.
If strawberry picking throughout the entire summer is your goal, the Hood strawberry is a terrific option. This variation thrives throughout the summer season, and is an excellent choice for making jams or preserves. This is because it is quite a bit juicier than other strawberry varieties, making it an outstanding choice for smoothies as well. This doesn’t mean that hood strawberries are not good for fresh eating, because they are, as long as you’re prepared to get a little messy.
Known for their sweet flavour, juicy interior, and soft texture, Quinalt strawberries are native to British Columbia. They are often used in sweet fruit tarts or on summer salads, and they are excellent baking strawberries. They are early bloomers, so you can start to harvest them as soon as the season begins in June.
Known for an excellent shelf life, the Tristar strawberry is subtle but sweet, and has a firmer texture than most varieties. This type of strawberry can be used to great advantage if your goal is to make unique desserts, because Tristars will hold their texture even when baked or cooked. The Tristar strawberry picking season is early June, but this particular variety can sometimes be picked as soon as late May.
Totem strawberries are one of the most commonly grown varieties in British Columbia. Unlike most strawberries that appear somewhat white in the middle, this variety is uniformly red inside. Its outer skin is a deeper shade of red than you see with most strawberries, and it is a bit sweeter. Unfortunately, this type of strawberry rots quickly, so if this is what you choose for your strawberry picking excursion, make sure you use them before they go bad. They can be harvested throughout the season and are great for fresh eating and baking alike.
Rainier strawberries are both very sweet and very soft. They are regarded as perfect for baking and cooking or eating, and are one of the most popular types in British Columbia. They are typically ready at the very beginning of the season, and can be picked the first week of June. However, their season ends rather early, around mid July.
Sparkle strawberries are known for freezing very well, and they are particularly popular for desserts, jellies and jams. Their outer skin is a bit lighter than average, and is very bright, hence their name. They are very sweet, and have a good shelf life. They are best picked from late-June through mid-August.
Tillamook strawberries are extremely large in size, and they ripen slightly earlier than other varieties. Colour-wise, they are a bit lighter than the majority of Pacific Northwest cultivars, but their taste is very potent, if not excessively sweet. They are best eaten fresh, but can also be used in baking. If you’re interested in this unique strawberry variety, plan your excursion for the month of June, since this is the very best time to harvest this type of berry.
Monterey strawberries are sweet and juicy, and best eaten fresh. They are a bit more susceptible to mould than other varieties, so if you plan to gather these on your strawberry picking outing, make sure you use them within approximately a week of your trip. Monterey strawberries are late bloomers and best picked in the month of August.
Firm, large, and conical in shape, Albion strawberries are best picked from June to early July. They have a very good, sweet flavour, and their skin is slightly darker than most BC strawberries.They are equally suitable for eating fresh or baking.
How to Pick BC Strawberries
To be very successful at strawberry picking, you must master a few technical aspects, but these are not overly difficult. Below is the best formula for a satisfactory outcome when picking this delicious fruit:
Hold and Twist
Hold the strawberry’s stem at approximately one half of an inch above the fruit between your index finger and thumb, while simultaneously cupping the fruit in your palm. Next, with pressure from your thumbnail, sever the stem by slightly twisting it. If you do this correctly, the strawberry should roll gently into your palm.
For faster picking, simply repeat this technique until you have a handful of berries, and then place them into your chosen container. However, your goal is not to obtain a huge fistful of the berries, since this may lead to bruising.
Strawberries are somewhat hardy and are not easily bruised like certain types of fruit. However, like any fruit, they can be damaged or bruised if handled incorrectly. The main activity to avoid is ‘heaping’ the strawberries, and the best way to avoid this is to refrain from piling them higher than five inches.
A Final Tip
Although it may seem a bit obvious, avoid picking green strawberries or those that have a significant amount of green or white still left in the skin. This means they are not yet ripe, and because strawberries very rarely ripen very well after being picked, your hard work will be in vain.
How to Store Strawberries
As with any food, storing is important, from the field to the table, and following a few simple steps will ensure the best outcome from your strawberry picking trip.
Wash Your Strawberries
Your strawberries should be gently rinsed as soon as you get them home. This should be done before anything else. An organic produce wash is perfect for this activity, but is not a requirement. You can also use a drop of white vinegar or a small amount of dish soap in a sink full of water. They should be patted dry immediately, as strawberries are easily susceptible to mould or viruses.
Chopping Versus Whole Storage
Depending on how you plan to use your strawberries, you should leave them whole or cut them into slices or chunks. Chopping them up keeps most varieties fresh for a greater length of time, but if your plan is to eat them as a snack, there are still ways to keep them fresh.
If you plan to use your strawberries for cooking and baking, store them in sandwich-size plastic bags after they are cut up in the desired fashion. Make sure you squeeze all the air out of the bags to ensure they last longer. Promptly refrigerate them, once again adhering to the ‘heaping’ rule.
You can store your strawberries in the pantry, but this is not recommended, as their life span will be much longer if they are refrigerated. Again, strawberries typically don’t ripen very much after they are picked, so storing them at room temperature really has no advantage.
How to Freeze Strawberries
If you plan to use your strawberries significantly in the future, it is a good idea to freeze them. You’ll be happy to know that all strawberry varieties freeze well. Slicing off the green tops is recommended, but not an absolute requirement.
To freeze them initially, slice them or lay them out whole on a wax or parchment-lined cookie sheet, being careful to keep them from touching each other, and place them in the freezer for approximately 30 minutes. When fully frozen, place them in freezer-safe storage bags and they will keep for six months.
Facts and Tips
It’s easy to see why strawberries are such an intriguing fruit. In fact, there is actually a strawberry museum in Belgium. It is one of the few museums in the world that is dedicated to just one fruit. Below, we have compiled some facts to highlight some of the most interesting things about them, from their history to their unique classification in the world of fruit.
Outer Surface Seeds
Most people are familiar with seeds inside fruits, but the strawberry has the unique distinction of having an outer layer of seeds embedded into the skin. There are also layers of seeds just under the skin, and not merely on the outer surface. In fact, an average-sized strawberry has over 200 seeds, which is somewhat mind-boggling when you consider their humble size.
Strawberries are Perennial
Strawberries are considered perennials, which means it is only necessary to plant one patch in order to harvest them one year after another. If they are taken care of appropriately and no catastrophic weather or other outside elements damage them in any way, replanting shouldn’t be necessary.
A Fruit or a Berry?
A fruit is classified as the ripened ovary of a flowered plant. Its outside layer protects the fruit’s seeds, such as is the case with a peach. A berry, by definition, is a simple fruit containing numerous berries throughout its heavy flesh. There can be any number of seeds, and the berries are within the fruit itself. When this is considered, a strawberry cannot technically be considered a berry, but since fruits have seeds on the inside, they cannot be truly regarded as a fruit either! In fact, many botanists refer to strawberries as a ‘false fruit.’ Regardless of what they are, however, BC produces approximately 1.5 million kg of strawberries each year, the total worth of which is about $5.2 million.
Health Benefits of Strawberries
It’s always beneficial when a food as delicious as strawberries is also healthy, and this is definitely the case with these delectable berries–or fruits–depending on your opinion regarding the fruit versus berry argument. At any rate, the health benefits of this tasty treat are outlined below.
Strawberries contain vital substances that help prevent damage to the brain. This, in turn, keeps the mind happy, healthy and strong. This is particularly true when they are combined with foods such as avocados, nuts, sesame seeds, salmon, and grapes. Additionally, studies conducted on animals indicate that a strawberry-rich diet may slow brain ageing.
Strengthens Immune System
Vitamin C plays an integral role in strong immunity, and just ½ a cup of strawberries gives you about 50% of your recommended daily allowance of this vitamin. It’s difficult to think of an easier way to get that much vitamin C in a snack no bigger than a handful.
Management of Osteoarthritis
Research has concluded that the anti-inflammatory properties of strawberries can positively affect the joints. Individuals suffering from knee pain due to osteoarthritis may enjoy an improved quality of life, and a reduction in pain and swelling if strawberries are regularly consumed. Studies have shown that strawberries substantially lower the overall pain levels of those with osteoarthritis, whether intermittent or constant.
Supports Heart Health
Due to their high quercetin and anthocyanin content, strawberries might help prevent heart disease. In a 2019 study concluded that anthocyanin is linked to a reduced risk of heart attack. Additionally, a 2016 study concluded that quercetin’s anti-inflammatory properties appear to lower the risk of atherosclerosis. Finally, heart health is also supported by potassium, and strawberries are rich in this mineral.
Lowers High Blood Pressure
Another benefit of the high levels of potassium found in strawberries is a reduction in high blood pressure. Potassium balances sodium in the human body, and sodium is a big culprit with regard to hypertension. Research conducted in 2018 found that consuming a higher amount of potassium-rich foods can help to bring blood pressure to the normal range, thus helping to prevent strokes and heart attacks.
Better Eye Health
Strawberries boast high levels of antioxidants, which not only help to prevent free radical damage, as previously mentioned, but which also can help prevent cataracts in older individuals. Cataracts refer to the lens of the eye clouding over, which can eventually lead to blindness if not corrected by surgery. Additionally, vitamin C, which is one of those antioxidants, can help strengthen the eye’s retina and cornea, as well as protect it from UV ray damage.
Helps Prevent Skin Cancer
Again, due to those antioxidant properties, strawberries can help protect your skin from uv damage, general pollutants, and skin damage from free radicals. A study conducted in Italy in 2017 even suggests that strawberry-based cosmetic formulas can counteract UV-induced damage, as well as keep the skin clean and fresh.
Impacts Insulin Sensitivity
Strawberries contain polyphenols, which research indicates may improve insulin sensitivity in adults. Interestingly, they may also help individuals metabolise other forms of glucose. For diabetics, they are a good snack to satisfy a sweet tooth craving, since they have a potent taste, but are surprisingly low in sugar.
Where to Pick BC Strawberries
Now that you are more familiar with the delectable strawberry, you are probably more anxious than ever to get out there and start picking some to eat or turn into tasty desserts. The following are some of the top British Columbia fruit farms where you can indulge in strawberry picking all summer long.
Bumbleberry Farms welcome visitors, and this establishment offers some of the finest strawberries you’ll ever find. In operation since 1969, this farm is a great choice for a strawberry picking excursion.
Famous for fresh PC strawberries, this farm is also home to a country kitchen, where gourmet meals, fresh baked pies, homemade jams, and 16 flavours of ice cream can be purchased. It also boasts a challenging kid’s maze and offers scenic hay wagon rides during summer and fall.
In operation since 1885, Emma Lea Farms is a local favourite, and not only offers plump, juicy strawberries, but is also home to a farm market, where you will find fresh pressed juices, flowers, honey, produce, and beeswax candles.
Best Ever Lifestyle Guide Inc. is an independent lifestyle guide for British Columbia based in Kelowna, BC.
We recognize and acknowledge that we live, learn, play and work on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Syilx Okanagan people.