When I think of summer, I think of strawberries. Not the ones sitting in the produce aisles of your local supermarket, but the ones that are still hanging close to the ground on strawberry plants at the U-Pick farms on the East End.
I also think of the little turquoise cardboard containers stained red from my overzealous children’s hands. I think of the sweet scent that only really ripe strawberries give off. I also think of the blistering sun, dusty fields, and so much love.
Every year, right around this time, we take a ride out to the North Fork to get ourselves nice and dirty picking in the strawberry fields. When we arrive, we do our best to avoid the crowds. By now, we know that too many feet trampling the ground only leads to too many squished berries. So instead, we walk deep into the fields, as far as we can, until the people and noise fades behind us. Only then, do we begin our annual strawberry hunt.
As with any family unit, we all have our roles to play. My husband is a master strawberry finder and is always able to locate the largest berries. Our son likes to oversee the entire operation and he’s in charge of giving us a heads-up if people are hot on our trail. My daughter loves to take her time and happily wanders about the rows looking for the perfect berry. And where am I in all of this? Crawling around, low to the ground, digging through the patches of dry grass, in search of the ripest, slightly blemished berries I can find.
You see, at my age, I have no need for perfection. It’s too difficult to attain. Instead, I prefer blemishes. They’re much more interesting. And in this case, much tastier.
We don’t stop hunting until our four little baskets are filled to the brim. Some years, this happens lighting fast. The berries are ripe, the fields and full, and the crowds are scarce. Other years, it takes a whole lot longer. But no matter how long it takes, our determination sees us through the blinding glare of the sun beating down our back.Why? Well, the answer is simple: nothing tastes half as good as freshly picked berries that you’ve harvested with your family.
Why? Well, the answer is simple: nothing tastes half as good as freshly picked berries that you’ve harvested with your family.
Strawberry season is short on the East End, so stock up while you can. You can pick berries, while they last, at the farms listed below. Make sure you call ahead of time to ensure the fields are open for harvesting before you go!
Pick Your Own Strawberries
Patty’s Berries and Bunches – Mattituck
410 Sound Avenue
Garden of Eve Organic Farm – Riverhead
4558 Sound Avenue
Condzella’s Farm – Wading River
6233 North Country Road
Glover Farms – Brookhaven
633 Victory Avenue
Lewin Farms — Wading River
812 Sound Avenue
Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm — Baiting Hollow
2287 Sound Avenue
Wickham’s Fruit Farm — Cutchogue
28700 Main Road (Route 25)
Windy Acres Farm — Calverton
3810 Middle Country Road