I know. It’s a summer weekend morning. Your plans are to sleep in. Nothing could be more perfect.
Given my history as a human being I’m actually hard-pressed to argue against that. I’m currently debating whether to change the title of this post because this article isn’t about sleeping in and therefore the headline may in fact be a huge, clickbait-y lie.
But if you do manage to get yourself out of bed before 9am, this’ll certainly feel like a perfect summer morning for your city-dweller self.
Grab some friends and/or family members, and head out to your local u-pick strawberry farm.
Spring this year was cold and rainy in the Lower Mainland, so the strawberries might be teeny-tiny and less plentiful. But summer is here now in all its burning glory, and the strawberries are still sweet, juicy, and ripe for the picking!
Our little group decided to go to WA Farms in Richmond, close to where our grandmother lives. The only prep you need is cash, baskets, a water bottle, and sun-screen. Most of these things are self-explanatory, but I will add that it’s best to bring shallow baskets. The ones the farm sells, for example, are maybe 8″ deep. If you fill a 24″ bucket to the brim, the strawberries at the bottom will get crushed under the weight of the strawberries at the top.
Tip Number One: Bring more than one bottle of sunscreen. You might lose one. It sounds unlikely, but it happens. In our case, one of our group members left our sunscreen on the roof of the car before we drove over to Richmond. It did not defy the laws of motion and come with us all the way to the strawberry farm.
I have no idea if you’re going to meet up with a sunscreen-carrying grandma on your strawberry farm adventures, but if you don’t, you’re going to turn as red as the strawberries after an hour under the sun. Sunscreen is important.
For this reason, I suggest bringing more than one bottle of sunscreen. Alternatively, you can also bring your own grandma, like we did (grandma-esque friends are also acceptable). They will likely have another bottle of sunscreen at the ready, and provide good company free of charge.
Once your team is ready, take your baskets and head to the u-pick station, where a couple of friendly employees will weigh your baskets and label them for your return.
After that, you’re released into the strawberry fields to pick to your heart’s content.
O.G. strawberry picker, G-ma.
Marielle, poking around for the best-looking strawbs.
Tip Number Two: Make sure to go with good-natured people who love the sun and don’t mind getting a little dirty.
Who would you pick for your group?
We had a small group that hadn’t done any sort of berry picking in several years, so we were all excited to go. One of our members was Marielle: sister, granddaughter, friend, girlfriend, girlfriend’s sister. She wears many different hats. Except literally, because that would mess with her ponytail.
Marielle overcame her childhood fear of bees to turn strawberry picking into a competition with everyone else. She neglected to verbally tell anyone about the competition, but her demeanor was a clear enough communicator to everyone in the area. So was her incessant, “No, Leon, this is my area!” and the subsequent, “Ok, you can come over here I guess.” Sharing is caring, and Marielle, ever the human paradox, demonstrated the sentiment well during our outing–if only with her boyfriend.
“You can tell I’m going to win because I rolled up my t-shirt sleeves.”
Little did Marielle know, Leon had developed his own picking method for the competition. “Straddle a row,” he said with a smirk, “and you get close-up access to twice as many berries.” (For competitive readers: if you choose to believe that Leon’s method is a real strategy, feel free to think of it as Tip Number Two and a Half)
Tip Number Three: While your goofball friends attempt to dominate one area of the strawberry fields, find your own little space and take it easy. If you go at the start of the season and in the morning before the crowds get there, you’ll have no problem finding enough little red rubies to fill your basket.
Me feat. a random child.
It’s not easy taking pictures at a strawberry field. Unless strangers mooning in the background is your aesthetic.
Marielle, with her first big strawberry find.
Leon enjoying the fruits of his labour.
Tip Number Four: Have a good time, but don’t get crazy. A friendly, unspoken competition is all good and fun, but the u-pick fields are for everyone so don’t get in people’s way or destroy the little strawberry plants. If you’re thinking, “Miriam, you don’t have to tell me to be a decent person,” I mostly just added this because I wanted to say that my Uncle was kicked off a raspberry farm as a kid.
In his defense, “there’s only so much raspberry picking a kid can do before they compulsively start launching berries at each other for entertainment.”
Hopefully you don’t have that kind of struggle.
After collecting all the strawberries you want, head back to the u-pick stand and have the staff weigh your baskets. WA farms is about $2.50 a pound, and our group totaled about 15 pounds of strawberries.
Michael and I collected 4 pounds total, Grandma 2 pounds, and Marielle and Leon… 9 pounds.
Yes, that sound you hear in the distance is a young woman’s scream of victory. Her t-shirt sleeves are still rolled up so she can fist-pump with sartorial ease.
After paying up, we took our bounty back to the cars. All 15 pounds of strawberries. Sounds like a lot–and it was–but nothing compared to the family of five at the stand before us, who took home 65 pounds worth of strawberries. It looked like the husband and wife, with three little children in tow, would be eating strawberries exclusively for the next month. We were all interested to know what they planned to do with their haul… make 11 pints of jam? Fruit smoothies for the entire summer? Strawberry eating contest?
Tip Number Five: Make sure you know what you’re going to do with all those strawberries. Can you make use of them, or are they going to end up in the organics bin? Strawberries from your local u-pick farm are fresh and don’t have the same stuff sprayed on them as, say, those big Californian berries that look like they’ve been doing roid cycles on their trip up the west coast. Richmond berries are small, deliciously sweet, and will only retain their flavour for a day or two, depending on where you go. So don’t pick more than you can eat, or be prepared to stuff a lot of them in the freezer for smoothies!
Photographer & blogger, happy & hydrated.
So what happens after your trip to the fields? If you’re in Richmond, drive over to Pajo’s in Steveston and pick up some fish & chips. If you’re lucky, you could head back to your grandma’s place, and enjoy lunch poolside to cap off a truly perfect summer Saturday.
That’s the kind of day that’s definitely worth waking up early for.
So, strawberry season is almost over. What’re you waiting for?
PS: Need ideas for what to do with 13 lbs of strawberries? Try making strawberry compote, strawberry mango salsa, strawberry margaritas, chocolate cake with strawberries, strawberry jam, freeze them for smoothies, or, of course, eat them plain as snack!
9/10 photos by Michael G. 1/10 by Marielle M.