Pickers, Start Your Picking!

In May, there’s only one thing that comes to my mind besides the warm weather: it’s time to pick strawberries. At my dad’s house, the strawberries will soon be ready to pick, they are small but they are sweet and are the best things about spring. We have already started to put up the netting to keep the birds and chipmunks away, I do not like to share my strawberries with anyone else besides the family! We already started weeding the pesky dandelions and grass that started to grow around. It is finally May and May means that soon there will be a lot of different fruits, which I love more than anything. From picking the strawberries to eating them, it is a wonderful experience for everyone in the family to enjoy and is one of the better fruits in my opinion.
I first started having a interest in strawberries when I was little. My dad planted a strawberry patch at the side of the house and loves eating them. So, I guess I got it from him.  He would always say from downstairs, while I was upstairs in late April, “Rachel help me weed the strawberry patch!”, of course my response would be a big sigh and I would walk slowly down. Typical little kid response. However, when I was young, it was fun to watch the strawberries grow and pick them later, they were mostly small, but very sweet. I will admit that I am not a healthy eater and cringe when I hear the word vegetables. Fruit is better in my opinion than anything else. So, when the first fresh fruit is available, my parents make sure to get a lot of it. A few years ago, my dad had printed a brochure for a company named Ontelaunee Orchards and told my sister and I to get our shoes on, we were going to pick strawberries.
Ontelaunee Orchards is in Leesport, PA and grows a lot of different fruits, such as cherries, apples, blueberries, and other things. You can pick up a already picked container or go with your family and pick your own, which is what my family does. Picking our own strawberries is made into a race to see who can pick strawberries faster and fill up their container first.
When you drive up to the small booth, you are directed down a grassy path to the strawberries. They even tell you what rows you should go to to pick the freshest strawberries. Once you start driving down the bumpy, grassy lane, you see the apple and cherry trees that are not ready to be picked yet. When you finally park near the fence, which is near the road, you see row after row of strawberries. Not just any strawberries though, like I am used to at my house. Instead of being small and sweet at my house, these strawberries are huge. My eight year old sister and I have contests to see who picks the biggest strawberry. It’s the only way she will pick them. As soon as the car is in park, I am the first one out to survey where the best spot to pick is. Of  course, I have some of my own rules that I came up with when trying to pick strawberries.
First, you never go within two rows of where everyone else is. Now, there are some people that will somehow migrate to your row that is six rows down from the rows that they were at. Then they look at me, by myself, while my family is closer to where they originally were and say to me how they could not find any strawberries anymore. I find that hard to believe when the person is six rows away from my row and somehow could not find strawberries in the other rows while they were walking on over to my row. Which leads me to my next rule, never stay in the same place. Always move from row to row and area to area. If you stay in the same place with a huge smile on your face and are picking up strawberries that are huge, you are bound to draw attention to yourself and will eventually have people migrating to your area. Next rule is check your strawberries.
Strawberries should not have any green spots on them, if there is a little bit of green at the bottom of the strawberry, you can cut that away when you get home. Also, make sure that the strawberry is not a dark red, normally those are about to go and if you do like the softer strawberries, then you can look for these. Most people avoid them though because of how soft they are. I personally like my strawberries a perfect red, not dark red. If the strawberry is a very light red, this type of berry will be hard just a little bit and will have some flavor, but not a lot. Leave those berries in the field for another day or two. The best berries are ones that are not too dark but are not too light either, they are a nice red color. These are the ones that I look for the most and love when I find a lot of them, because they are sweet and of course, huge! Most strawberries if picked right, can last for a couple of days in the refrigerator or you can freeze the strawberries for a long period of time. Larger strawberries are ideal because they are larger and are also a little sweeter in my opinion than a smaller strawberry is. Of course, check for worms and any bird bites. What I mean by this is, turn the strawberry around and if there is any holes or worms eating away at it, do not put it in your container, but instead pick it off and throw it far away. I have been near others when I first started picking, who picked up a huge strawberry, looked at it, and kept it on the stem. I, of course thought that that person was not sure if they should pick it or not. Then, I go to pick it up and touch a warm instead, gross. Finally, it is time to pay and go home.
After picking as many strawberries as you can and filling your container, you take it to be weighed and to pay for it. After paying, you have your fresh strawberries that are ready to be washed at home. When you go home, rinse your strawberries, after all, they were laying in the dirt. Some people cut the stem off and others keep it on. Personally, I cut the stem off. Then comes the best part, eating them!
You can have a nice, huge, bowl of fresh strawberries to eat or make something with the strawberries. My family normally has a big bowl of strawberries for dessert after dinner and we always make sure to have the sugar nearby. My grandma, my dad’s mom, loves eating her strawberries with sugar and milk. I do not make anything with strawberries, even though I am always being told I should try this or that, I am happy with just having a bowl of fresh strawberries with some sugar lightly sprinkled over. It makes the strawberries even sweeter. My obsession with strawberries could be based on my family, who loves eating strawberries, or the fact that I get to watch them from a small, flowering plant that ends up producing a beautiful red, sweet strawberry. It could also be the experience that makes my reasoning of a strawberry being the best fruit good, but I cannot wait until the “open for picking” sign is up again for those delicious strawberries. Happy picking everyone and make sure to pick smart!

Please Note: As of now, Ontelaunee Orchards is not open for picking, if you would like to see when you can go to pick for the different types of fruits, please visit
http://www.twin-o.com/ to see when picking season starts. Happy picking!

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