How to pick and freeze strawberries! A local farm u-pick win

I've blogged before about how I love berry picking, how I didn't do it as a kid but have discovered it as an adult, and how it really says SUMMER to me! But I never had made it early enough in the season for strawberry picking until last year. We had an amazing experience last summer and did it again this past weekend! Here are our tips for how to do a u-pick strawberry trip, and how to freeze all those delicate, fresh berries!


Being out in a quiet, open space, feeling the sun on your back, being surrounded by the sweet smell of homemade strawberry jam... what a fantastic summer experience!


The farm we've been going to (Dave Heike's Berry Farm outside Hillsboro, Oregon) has three varieties: Hoods, which are very popular among the farmer's market vendors here as well and are a classic sweet, juicy berry; Shuksans, which have a more complex flavor, and Bentons, which naturally have more pectin in them so are great for canning. 

This past weekend we got there 10 minutes before they closed, so we only had time to visit the Hood section. They are fabulous berries, though!

How to pick strawberries


  1. Search for a u-pick farm near you on a site like LocalHarvest.org. Check their website or Facebook page for hours, prices, and when the season starts. A lot of them will update their pages for what's available for picking each weekend.
  2. Bring small buckets, old yogurt containers, or other lightweight vessels. The cashier will weigh them when you arrive so you don't pay for the weight of the container. For a sturdier berry like blueberries, a deep container is probably fine, but for delicate, juicy berries like strawberries or raspberries, a shallow dish is better. We used four kitchen containers for our 6 lbs of berries this time.
  3. Squat down in front of a row of berries, and pick handfuls at a time! (You can pick individual berries as well to be extra careful, but look at the handfuls I was finding--so available and easy to pull off a bunch at once!)
  4. Eat the ones that are too ripe or mushy when you pull them off. (Oops.) (Most farms will have signs or policies about tasting while you pick; most I've seen are okay with it!)
  5. Once you get them home, refrigerate immediately, or freeze (see below) or use for jam or other recipes.


You can see they're really delicate and do not travel well. But SO juicy, sweet, and delicious!

How to freeze fresh local strawberries


Within 1 day of picking (ideally within several hours):

  1. Rinse any dirty berries in a colander, ideally in one layer rather than stacked on top of each other. If the berries are organic and you're comfortable with it, don't rinse any more than you have to, since getting them wet will make them mushy faster.
  2. Pull off the stems and leaves and lay berries on a baking sheet. This is super easy with these soft berries, and you don't need much force at all. In fact, some of the tops fall off as you pick.
  3. Freeze overnight until berries are solid. Then, remove from baking sheet with a spatula and put into a freezer container. Should keep at least 1-2 years!


We've found these berries are SO sweet, and maybe even the Hoods are higher in pectin, that even when frozen they're pleasant to eat with a spoon or plain. We had one container that got left out, partially thawed, and then re-froze, so it was packed down in the bottom of the container as solid strawberry slush. But almost right out of the freezer I was still able to cut into it with a spoon and cut through it like sorbet! Amazing.

I use them throughout the year in protein-packed smoothies like this recipe, where you could easily substitute strawberries!

I've had fresh strawberries at farmers' markets since I was a kid, and always known they're better than storebought, but having the u-pick experience has made me extra grateful to live near these delicious treats, and I don't think I ever want to buy them at the store again!


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