I love May. It’s the month that my family plans an outing with grandchildren to pick strawberries.
Nothing compares to walking among rows of brilliantly ripe berries that are begging to be picked. Just don’t focus on only picking. Much like the advice “to stop and smell the roses,” take time to nibble as you pick. In fact, grandkids always eat more than they save in a bucket.
The best strategy is to plan to go home messy, so wear comfortable clothes that are almost ready to put in the wash. Children never leave a strawberry field as clean as they enter.
They also won’t pick as fast as you think they should. Relax. It’s an adventure, not a work trip.
If you take more than one grandchild, a competition among them quickly develops on who is picking the most. Quantity, not quality, is their reward.
Grandkids typically pick any berry in sight, whether it is lusciously ripe or still needs more time in the sun. They will be more than elated with whatever fills their buckets. Even with row markers clearly showing areas to pick, grandkids can venture off on their own at the most unexpected time. “Why can’t we pick over there?” is asked more than once.
Don’t plan on grandkids getting tired of picking at the same time that you are ready to quit. After all, they are much closer to the ground and won’t wear out from the constant bending.
Even though you feel that you may pop from eating so many berries as you picked, don’t be surprised that the grandkids still have room for strawberry ice cream. Many places have learned that selling homemade ice cream is as important as having fresh berries to pick.
The N.C. Piedmont area has almost 100 you-pick-it strawberry farms, according to the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. You really don’t have to drive too far to find one. The N.C. Strawberry Association even makes planning easy with a farm locator and free smart phone app at: www.ncstrawberry.com/growers.cfm. In addition, friends are great sources of recommendations on where to pick.
Most you-pick-it locations opened last month and have pickable strawberries throughout May. However, to be safe, always check in advance before you go to verify hours and conditions.
Picking strawberries with grandchildren is one of the true joys of springtime. Plus, when you pick your own, you avoid the problem Mark Twain warned about in 1908, “When a man is buying a basket of strawberries, it can profit him to know that the bottom half of it is rotten.”
Retired from the N.C. Community College System, Linville is a contributing writer for the N.C. Folklife Institute and conducts programs on Southern food, history and culture. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.