Strawberry Fields Forever

When I was a kid, my family went strawberry picking once a year. We’d scamper through the fields, eating just as many strawberries as we put in the basket, and then go home to eat strawberry shortcake for dinner. Yes, for dinner! Those were the days…

So when a friend suggested we go strawberry picking today, I jumped at the opportunity.

What we didn’t realize until we arrived at Eckert’s Farm was that today was literally the last day that the strawberry fields were open. Strawberry season was coming to a close, and as a friendly employee who called herself “Sherrie” informed us, there were very few strawberries left on the bushes.

In fact, “Sherrie” suggested that if we really wanted to pick strawberries, we go out to the fields for a few minutes and then come back to buy pre-picked strawberries at the Eckert’s country store to fill up our baskets. Sherrie didn’t think we had what it took to find the last remaining strawberries.

Challenge accepted, Sherrie.

Now, back in the day when I went strawberry picking, there were an abundance of large, ripe strawberries ready for the plucking. You could settle down in one spot for a few minutes and walk away with heaps of fruit. They’d practically jump into your basket.

Well, Sherrie was right about one thing–there were very few strawberries left, and those that remained were sunbaked and rotten. But if you looked under the leaves and in the shade of the plants, you could find a few good ones left.

Driven by my passion to prove Sherrie wrong, I literally got down on my hands and knees to find even the tiniest strawberry that hadn’t gone bad. Juices running down my fingers, I slipped my hands under the supple leaves and felt around for the fruits. I parted the plants at the base and took what was mine.

As a result of me crawling around on the grass for two hours, I ended up with a pretty bad allergic reaction, no doubt part of Sherrie’s plan from the beginning. Also, my old-man back hurt way more than when I was a kid. But I fought through the rashes and the pain to emerge triumphant from the field with the basket of strawberries that you see here.

I was hoping that Sherrie would still be welcoming visitors with her warm smile and welcoming attitude, but she had jumped ship. Which is a totally a Sherrie thing to do.

Have you ever been strawberry picking, apple plucking, or pumpkin hunting? I especially want to hear your story if you went on the last day of the season. I really wonder what we would have picked instead if yesterday was the last day instead of today. What comes after strawberries? Mulberries? Thyme?

Now that I’ve finished this post, I just realize that I should have made it a survival post. Dammit, Sherrie!

32 thoughts on “Strawberry Fields Forever”

  1. A couple of years ago, I was babysitting my niece and I thought apple picking would be a great way to end the afternoon (we had already visited the Science Center and had lunch at Schlafly- a great place for a three year old), so we got in the car and made the drive out to Eckert’s only to discover that it was the end of apple season, and there were only a few apples left on the trees.

    A recommendation was made to just buy some already picked ones at their store, but I didn’t want to disappoint her as I had hyped up how much fun it would be to find our own apples. Luckily, they still had one row of trees open in the orchards and we were able to scavenge for the last remaining apples to take home… and sampled a few as we went. It turned out to be one of my favorite days, just because seeing her excitement reminded me of how I felt when we would go there as kids.

    Since Eckert’s is in my hometown, I have tons of childhood memories spent with my grandparents picking fruit at that farm. Did they have the tractor running to take people out to the fields? That was always one of the best parts. I think the next fruit is peaches, but not until the middle of summer.

    Reply
    • Katy–That’s awesome that you went at the end of the season too! I’m glad you can relate. It certainly did make the day more of an adventure since it was truly a challenge to find fruit to pick.

      They did have the tractor taking people to the fields! It was nice to sit back and relax after our stint as day laborers.

      Now I just need to figure out how to use several pounds of strawberries.

      Reply
      • My sister makes an amazing strawberry bread. There’s also strawberry sauce for pancakes or ice cream, spinach-strawberry salad, or you can always use them as another topping for s’mores. 🙂

        Reply
      • I need to get you the recipe for strawberry rhubarb muffins. And Snickers Pie. Just waiting for my mom to get home from the beach so I can raid her computer for recipes 🙂

        Reply
  2. Peaches. Peaches are next and I think Eckert’s has peach picking too. You could have a little reunion with Sherrie!

    Reply
    • Peaches! Sounds great, Melanie. Although, I bet Sherrie will be all like, “I bet you won’t find any peaches.” That’s SUCH a Sherrie thing to say.

      Reply
      • So… just heard on the news that peach season has already started at Eckerts- only they aren’t letting people pick their own yet, but they are going to be available at their Country Store.

        Your buddy Sherrie is probably the mastermind behind that decision. 🙂

        Reply
        • Oh, that’s SO Sherrie! It’s totally Sherrie to say, “You’re not good enough to pick the peaches yourselves, so we’ll pick them for you and you can buy them in the general store.” Damn Sherrie, with her warm, welcoming attitude and logical explanations.

          Reply
  3. “Juices running down my fingers, I slipped my hands under the supple leaves and felt around for the fruits. I parted the plants at the base and took what was mine.”

    Holy cow, Jamey! That is too much for me to handle on a Monday morning. I had to turn my desk fan on!

    Are you trying to nudge into the “Fifty Shades of Grey” market? 🙂

    Reply
    • I was hoping someone would notice that, Katie! Ha ha…nothing wrong with a little unexpected erotica to start the day, right?

      Reply
      • I have been incredibly uncomfortable with the places this blog has gone over the last few weeks. If the strawberries had been lactating, I think I might have been done here.

        Reply
      • Ansley–I don’t know what you’re talking about. All I was saying was that I thrusted myself into the underbrush until I came to the conclusion that there were no berries left.

        I’m alienating all of my male readers, aren’t I?

        Reply
        • Did the ripe berries explode with fresh summery flavor as you bit into the soft flesh? Did the juices drip down your chin as you ravished them?

          Man, I’m so tempted to write a “Grey” novel…

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          • He fondled each berry in his hand, caressing his fingers over the soft skin, feeling it yield to his gentle pressure.

            Yes, this one was ready.

            It was practically calling his name, begging to be taken home and willing to submit to his every desire. Juices, james, jellies; if that’s what he wanted, it would not put up a fight. It could imagine the cool water gliding over its flesh as he rinsed it off in the sink. The way his hands plucked off the stems as nimbly as undoing buttons on a shirt. He would prepare to feast–no, gorge–on the sweetness all night long, until he could take no more…

            Reply
  4. I remember strawberry picking, apple picking, pumpkin hunting, wildflower picking, and I want to say cucumber too. All ridiculously fun when I was younger, even though I ate none of the items. Pumpkin picking was always my favorite, because I would HAVE to choose the biggest pumpkin I could get my arms around to touch my fingers. The older I got, the bigger the pumpkin.

    I also noticed the naughty line in your post and thought, how clever. Dirty minds people! They’re just strawberries! 😉

    Was the reaction to the plants or the dirt? As long as it was worth it.

    The berries you collected look like they might be perfect for jam. My parents used to can preserves, so you could look into that. The cats will love it!

    If you Google picking seasons or calendars, you can usually find when items in your area are usually open to the public.

    Reply
    • Interesting–I didn’t know there was such thing as cucumber picking.

      The allergic reaction was to the grass, I think. I don’t think I’m allergic to strawberries themselves.

      I like the jam idea! I hadn’t thought of that. Frozen daiquiris also sound good. 🙂

      Reply
  5. I’ll never know why people choose to do unpaid manual labor for strawberry (and apple and peach, etc…) farms. What a racket.

    Reply
  6. I love the peach picking. Strawberry picking was too much hard work. I did it once when I was a teen and got sunburned and back and knee ache. I left the field feeling like a 80 year old. Peach picking was better. I can hide in the shades and enjoy a peach. Yummy!

    I did not notice the naughty line until reading the comments. I guess that means I need to be off work and run!

    Reply
  7. Peaches are a rolling and therefore longer season at Eckerts; they have multiple varieties so even if it is the end of one’s season, it is usually the beginning of the next. Most years though, all of the varieties ripen when it’s 105 degrees in late July into August. Not that there’s not something to love about baking in the sun on the tractor on the way to the orchard…I mean, why get the SPF 60 sunscreen if you’re not going to go out in the sun, right? The peaches freeze really well too; I peel and slice them and freeze them 8 cups per gallon bag, flat in the freezer. Great for cobblers, smoothies, crisps…I may need to go bake something now.

    Reply
    • Arianne–I LOVE peaches. I may need to go there in the summer. I don’t love crowds, so I’ll have to find a time when the peaches are ripe but few people are around. I work best when it’s just me, the trees, the dirt, the sun, and the allergic rashes.

      Reply

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