guides

Strawberry Picking Guide for Greater Lowell...plus Picking Tips

By Barbara Evangelista, Publisher June 2, 2021

Fresh strawberry season will be here by mid-June! Kids love strawberry-picking (and eating) so bring them along to the fields. It's a special experience to actually show them how our food is grown and harvested. Helping to pick a fruit or veggie may even encourage picky kids to taste them. (Hey, whatever works!)

Here are some tips from Ellen Parlee at Parlee Farms to help make your picking experience the best for your family and for the delicate plants on the farm:

  1. Strawberries should be pinched on the stem, just above the leaves, not pulled off the plant or twisted, since this can harm the plant. This means that kids who are picking need to have a well-developed "pincer grasp". Most children have this after 12 months but may not have a strong grasp until 2 or 3. Consider keeping very young children in a stroller while toddlers and preschoolers stay with you to learn about careful walking, picking and choosing the right berries. Children over 6 can usually pick on their own.

  2. Strawberry plant rows are usually 1-2 feet apart, so there won't be room for your stroller in the fields. Unless the field is very crowded, most parents set their stroller right at the edge of the field and pick nearby with older children. Another option is to go picking with a friend, and each of you can take turns staying next to the strollers.

  3. Examine each strawberry on all sides carefully before picking. Strawberries don't ripen any further after picking, so be sure it's a good one before you pinch the stem! If there are unripe spots, leave it on the stem to continue ripening.

  4. In general, all strawberry commercial crops in New England are sprayed since our damp weather makes it impossible to eliminate pests, so it will be very difficult to find an organic strawberry farm. Parlee Farms uses the Integrated Pest Management system, which is designed to minimize pests as much as possible through other approaches but generally does require spraying. A sign of a good farm using Integrated Pest Management is that it will be very neat, with mowed fields, to prevent pests from harboring in neighboring plants.

  5. Pick as early in the day as possible. It will be cooler for you, the sun will not be as strong, and the berries will be firmer and less squishy after a cool night. Most strawberry farms open by 8 AM. Don't forget hats, sunscreen and sunglasses on bright, sunny days!

  6. Always check the farm's website, if they have one, before heading out to see what the daily conditions are like. Sometimes picking hours are limited, or they may even close the fields for a day or two to allow more strawberries to ripen. At Parlee Farms, the website, Facebook page, and voicemail are updated every morning with current conditions and prices. Look for "Today's Farm News".

  7. A sample or two is OK but please put most of your berries in the basket! Pick-your-own farms rely on the honor system. Please put most of your fruit in the basket, pay, and then enjoy. The kitchen staff at Parlee Farms is happy to wash your berries so that you can enjoy them at the picnic tables.

  8. Dogs are not allowed on any pick-your-own fields, by state law. If you bring your dog, you will have to leave it in the car, so please leave the pooch at home in comfort!


LOCAL STRAWBERRY-PICKING GUIDE 

A beautiful sunny Spring means a gorgeous and early strawberry harvest!  See the guide below for Pick-Your-Own locations and information.  Most local farm stands also have quarts of fresh strawberries, if pick-your-own isn't your thing. Be sure to scroll down for yummy strawberry recipes too!


CHELMSFORD

Parlee's Farm, 135 Pine Hill Rd, Chelmsford. 978-256-2859
(Note: this is a different farm than Parlee Farms in Tyngsboro.)  


DRACUT

Farmer Dave's, 437 Parker Rd, Dracut   978-454-3434  

Strawberry picking usually starts mid-June on weekends only.  Pre-picked strawberries are also available at the farm stand.


PEPPERELL

Kimball Fruit Farm, 184 Hollis St (Rt. 122), Pepperell. 978-433-9751  

Check their Facebook page for the latest picking conditions.  Quarts of freshly-picked fruit are already available at the farm stand.

Kimball Fruit Farm practices Integrated Pest Management which results in a reduced use of chemicals. They offer pick-your-own strawberries, raspberries and apples and have a farm stand with a wide variety of produce grown on-site.


TEWKSBURY

Farmer Dave's East Street Farm Stand, 460 East St, Tewksbury   978-851-2048  

Limited strawberry picking usually starts mid-June on weekends only. Pre-picked strawberries are also available at the farm stand.


TYNGSBORO

Parlee Farms, 95 Farwell Rd, Tyngsborough  978-649-3854

Pre-picked quarts are available in the farm stand.  Strawberry pick-your-own will be available in mid-June; check their Facebook page or website for the latest picking conditions.  


Do you know of another local farm that offers strawberry picking? Let us know via email!  Also see the Strawberry Picking Guide at our sister edition Macaroni Kid Merrimack Valley.


Strawberry Recipes:

Summer Berry Cream Muffins

Strawberry Upside Down Cake

Berries in a Cloud

Inside Out Chocolate Strawberries

Cool Berry Flag Cake

Rhubarb Strawberry Oatmeal Bars




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