What We Want / Strawberries
Where to pick them, what to make with them, and how to celebrate them
Photos courtesy of Cornell Cooperative Extension
When my grandmother was growing up in South Buffalo during World War II, strawberry picking was an occupation that earned you two cents a quart. Kids would queue up in groups outside the Buffalo jail, waiting for a truck that would pick them up and carry them out of the city, early in the morning, to a fruit farm with a name that is buried somewhere in our family history.
Now, berry picking is as much a recreational activity as a job. On a bright summer day, there’s nothing quite like the fresh farm air, the satisfaction of filling a basket to the brim, and the touch of the plants, fingers stained by the juice of berries warmed by the sun. This is what summer is all about.
It isn’t entirely clear why we call them “strawberries”; possible sources include the straw that farmers often use to mulch the plants or the straws that enterprising kids used to impale wild berries and sell them as snacks. The berries themselves are not technically fruits, but the enlarged receptacles of strawberry blossoms, which bear a resemblance to their relative, the rose. What look like “seeds” on the outside of a strawberry are actually entire desiccated fruits, or achenes, that cling to the receptacle: you can think of a strawberry as an inside-out version of a raspberry. With a strawberry, the single-seed fruits develop, and come away from the white cone-shaped receptacle in the center.
Strawberries can adapt to almost any climate, but they flourish in cold climates with loose, dry soils, where they are best able to develop the delicate fragrance that gives the genus its name, Fragaria. Regions with limited summer growing seasons are also the places to go for the best berries. Unlike pineapples, peaches, or other stone fruits, strawberries don’t continue to ripen after they are picked; this means that supermarket berries, especially when they have to be shipped long distances, are often chronically under-ripe to prevent bruising and spoilage. Your best chance to get a perfect strawberry is to pick it yourself.
Western New York offers plenty of opportunities to try dozens of varieties of strawberries fresh from the farm, from the classic, heirloom-quality Earliglow (with a rich, red color and remarkable sweetness) to the berry that Megan Burley of Burley Berries says is a personal favorite: the multipurpose, picture-perfect Jewel, which can grow as big as the palm of a hand.
10719 Brant Angola Rd., Brant
Open: Daily, 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
Awald’s Berry Farm
10692 Walnut Ave., North Collins
Open: M–Sa, 8 a.m.–6 p.m., Su, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Contact: awaldfarms.com or 337-2997
6335 Route 20A East, Warsaw
Open: 9 a.m.–7 p.m., except Tuesday and Sunday (unless the patch is picked). Call for picking times or check Facebook!
Contact: burleyberries.wixsite.com/burley-berries or (585) 687-7050
Corner of Routes 425 and 93, Cambria
Contact: coulterfarmsllc.com or 434-5700
Greg’s U-Pick Farm
9270 Lapp Rd., Clarence Center
Open: M–Th, 8 a.m.–7 p.m. and Fr–Su, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
Contact: gregsupick.com or 741-4239
13439 Genesee Rd., Chaffee
Open: M–F, 8 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sa, 8 a.m.–4 p.m.; Su, 8 a.m.–2 p.m.
Contact: henhawkacres.com or 496-5380
LaRose’s Farm Market
5759 Ridge Rd. (Route 104), Lockport
Open: Daily, 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Contact: larosegardencenter.com or 433-9352
Thorpe’s Organic Family Farm (certified organic)
12866 Route 78, East Aurora
Contact: thorpesorganicfamilyfarm.com or 655-4486
1524 Cain Rd., Brant
Contact : 337-2578 or 867-6518
7828 East Eden Rd., Eden
Strawberry Events in WNY
Albion 31st Annual Strawberry Festival
Route 98 at East State Street, Albion
Tons of family entertainment, live music, classic car show, a turtle race, and other events to be announced
Merritt Estate Winery 37th Annual Strawberry Festival
2264 King Road, Forestville
Featuring “everything strawberry” (wine, shortcake, chocolate-covered, and more) plus great food, beer, and the estate’s famous Sangria Wine Slush. Live music, classic car show, and craft vendors.
Pelion Community Garden Strawberry Social
206 Best Street, Buffalo
Group jam-making session and a showcase of art and performance by Buffalo City Honors students. Please consider donating small jam jars with or without lids.
Contact: 803-5566 or email@example.com
Check out Kathy Manley's (from Lexington Coop) winning recipe for strawberry jam and other strawberry recipes right here!