Preparing to visit a U-pick operation
The following information has been taken primarily from the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association website.
What should I wear?
Loose, comfortable clothing is recommended. Remember those UV rays - wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. Bring some mosquito repellent, just in case.
Do I need anything else?
Bring a picnic cooler with ice packs, to keep those berries and vegetables just right until you get home.
Is there anything else I should know?
Remember to phone before you leave to check crop conditions and availability. When you arrive, please respect the grower's property and follow any written or verbal instructions you are given. Most of all, HAVE FUN!
What about storing the berries?
You can preserve their food value and quality by treating the berries gently. When you get them home, sort but do not clean them until just before you use them. Store the berries uncovered in the refrigerator in the original or a shallow container. When you are ready to use the berries, wash them quickly in cold water. Do not let them soak. Lift them gently from the wash water and drain them well before you hull them. It's best to use your strawberries within three days.
Strawberries are not only good to eat, they are also "good for us." They are an especially tasty source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). In fact, one cup of fresh strawberries provides about 88 milligrams of ascorbic acid, which more than meets the Recommended Daily Dietary allowance of 45 milligrams for the average adult. Vitamin C is well retained when the strawberries are handled carefully. Capping, injuring, cutting, or juicing, however, will reduce the vitamin content.
Strawberries are low in calories: one cup of unsweetened strawberries has only 55 calories. So if you are on a reducing diet, use strawberries to add flavor, food value, and pleasure to meals. You can even eat some as a between-meals snack.
What's the best way to pick strawberries?
Strawberries look better and keep longer when they are picked and handled correctly. Because they are a very tender fruit, they will bruise and discolor any time they are squeezed. Handle them gently, at all times, whether you are picking them, placing them in the container, or handling the filled containers.
The surest way to pick fruit with a minimum of bruising is as follows:
- Grasp the stem just above the berry between the forefinger and the thumbnail and pull with a slight twisting motion.
- With the stem broken about one-half inch from the berry, allow it to roll into the palm of your hand.
- Repeat these operations using both hands until each holds 3 or 4 berries.
- Carefully place - don't throw - the fruit into your containers. Repeat the picking process with both hands.
- Don't overfill your containers or try to pack the berries down.
Another method may be used with some varieties that cap easily. Picking berries without the calyx or cap will result in some bruising but is satisfactory for berries that will be processed soon after picking.
- Grasp the stem between the thumb and forefinger just behind the cap.
- Squeeze slightly against the cap and apply slight pressure against the berry with the second finger. The berry should pull loose, leaving the cap on the stem.
Whether you pick strawberries from your own garden or at a Pick-Your-Own farm, here are a few tips to keep in mind: Be careful that your feet and knees do not damage plants or fruit in or along the edge of the row. At a Pick-Your-Own farm, it is important that you pick only on the row assigned to you.
Most growers furnish picking containers designed for strawberries. If you use your own container, remember that heaping strawberries more than 5 inches deep will bruise the lower berries.
Pick only the berries that are fully red. Part the leaves with your hands to look for hidden berries ready for harvest.
Pick the row clean. Remove from the plants berries showing rot, sunburn, insect injury, or other defects and place them between the rows behind you.
Berries to be used immediately may be picked any time, but if you plan to hold the fruit for a few days, try to pick in the early morning or on cool, cloudy days. Berries picked during the heat of the day become soft, are easily bruised, and will not keep well.
Avoid placing the picked berries in the sun any longer than necessary. It is better to put them in the shade of a tree or shed than in the car trunk or on the car seat. Cool them as soon as possible after picking. Strawberries may be kept fresh in the refrigerator for 3 or more days, depending upon the initial quality of the berry. After a few days in storage, however, the fruit loses its bright color and fresh flavor and tends to shrivel.
Give the harvested fruit a soft ride home.
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