When Are Strawberries in Season?
Strawberries are a summer staple for a reason. They're juicy, sweet, and perfect in almost any drink or dish, which is why so many hobby gardeners grow their own. Plus, they're relatively easy to care for, and if you plant them in the right conditions, you'll find that your strawberry bushes can produce a bounty for you and your family to enjoy throughout the summer. If you're not planning to grow your own at home, you might be wondering when's the best time to pick up a pint at the grocery store—they're readily available in most stores year-round, so when are these little berries at their peak?
When are strawberries in season?
Strawberry season actually varies from region to region and from variety to variety, according to Erin Schanen, creator of The Impatient Gardener, a master garden volunteer, and a Troy-Bilt garden expert. "So-called June-bearing varieties produce a large crop of berries for about three weeks, but just because they are called June-bearing doesn't mean that's when they ripen everywhere," she explains. "June is typical for cooler zones, but in warmer zones (from about USDA zone seven and warmer), harvesting will begin sooner, perhaps as early as late February in places like Florida." If you're growing your berries in cooler climes, you'll have to wait a lot longer for a proper harvest. But in areas where it's warmer, you can start to enjoy the fruit of your labor as early as February.
What's the timeline for harvesting strawberries?
If you're growing strawberries at home, you'll want to check your fruits for signs of ripeness before you begin to pick them. Schanen says that strawberries will generally be ready to harvest around four to six weeks after they flower. So, you'll want to take note of when you see those first white blooms appearing in order to get an idea of how long it will be before you can come back for harvesting.
A top tip for picking once it's time to harvest? The stem that holds the strawberry is very small and can be pinched between your fingers, according to Adrienne R. Roethling, director of curation and mission delivery at Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. "You can pinch just above the bud or the leafy cap that sits on top of the fruit," she says, adding that if that doesn't work you can use your fingernails to puncture the stem.
How can you tell if strawberries are ripe?
Your strawberries will ripen at different times depending on where you're located, so a good way to tell if they are ready for harvest is to check them over for some common indicators, Roethling says. "The fruits will go from green to red," she says, adding that the whole process can happen so quickly that once you see it begin you should check in on them daily. "I would pick them as soon as you see some turning red," she says. You'll want to give them each a gentle squeeze as well to check for firmness once they begin to turn red. If you find that the berry is still very firm, even though it's red, you can leave it on the vine for one more day, but Roethling advises against waiting too much longer. "If you forget or don't go back, you run the risk of rabbits, mice, or even slugs getting the plants."
You can use these same indicators when selecting berries at a grocery store or farmers' market—check the color of the berry (and its firmness, if you can) before making your final selection.