There’s nothing quite like a bucket filled with freshly picked strawberries. Picking them yourself is even better. Cortland County has its very own u-pick farm at Cobblestone Valley Farm, a diversified organic farm located in the heart of New York State right off Interstate 81. For a few precious weeks out of the year, locals and visitors flock to the Preble, NY to pick their own plump, juicy strawberries from the perfectly parallel rows of crops.
We chatted with owner, Maureen Knapp about the 2020 season, and put together some picking tips and delicious and easy strawberry recipes you can whip up
Experience Cortland (EC): What has the 2020 strawberry season been like?
Maureen Knapp (MK): It's been an interesting year because in keeping with the theme of this COVID year, it's been a little bit strange in that we have so many people come in to pick berries - which is wonderful - that we need to allow a day for the field to ripen up. So it has been pick a day, use a day to ripen, pick a day and use a day to ripen. However, in keep with that, people can just check the website and social media because we post the schedule and when things change.
EC: Speaking of the Coronavirus, what precautions have you put in place to ensure the safety of both your staff and customers?
MK: We have asked people who are coming to pick berries to wear a mask when they face the attendant at the strawberry shed, and then we leave it up to them how they social distance and whether they wear a mask on the field. There is certainly enough room for people to social distance while picking berries. I think it's a treat for people to get some fresh air and be able to talk to one another and see one another without masks.
EC: How much longer do you see the season lasting?
MK: We're heading into peak season which means that all the variety of berries that we have ripening are in their ripe stages. So this is probably the best week to come, but we usually figure that we pick through July 4th.
EC: Any tips you'd like to share with your customers for the best strawberry picking experience?
MK: My favorite tip includes picking one row and taking that row all the way down until you're finished picking. A lot of the time people jump around in the rows and there are pockets of berries that been unpicked. Another big thing to remember is the strawberry leaves hide a lot of the berries. You don't think they do, but when you get down there and move the leaves around you'll find a lot more sparkling berries down there.
EC: Last, but certainly not least, what is your favorite recipe using Cobblestone strawberries?
MK: The favorite recipe here on the farm would have to be the classic strawberry shortcake with real whipped cream and homemade biscuits.
If you're now craving a tender, homemade shortcake layered with sweet strawberries and fresh whipped cream, pack up the kids, load up the car and get pickin'! The field is located at 2100 Preble Road, Preble NY or Google Cobblestone Valley Organic Strawberries - keep a lookout for the signs. Remember to check their website - www.cobblestonevalley.com - or follow them on Instagram & Facebook for daily updates about weather and berry ripening closings.
Five Tips to Have the Best Strawberry Picking Experience
1. Plan ahead. Picking conditions can change day-to-day, especially if there has been rain or a dramatic change in temperature. Check Cobblestone's Facebook page for daily updates.
2. Go early in the day. This is especially important on the weekends! Set your alarm earlier than usual and arrive when the farm opens. Not only will it be less congested, but you'll have first dibs at hauling in the big berries!
3. Dress for picking. We recommend wearing lose-toed shoes, a sun hat and lather on the sunscreen. Worried about strawberry juice dripping on your clothes when you sneak in a few on the drive back home? Wear a red shirt!
4. Local berries are fragile. Eat your strawberries or freeze them within 24 hours of picking. Don't forget to wash your berries right away in a vinegar and water bath to eliminate mold and bacteria and extend their lifespan.
5. Please pay for your strawberries before eating. It is VERY tempting to eat strawberries while picking, but please keep in mind that for every strawberry you pop into your mouth and not into the basket is fruit you're not paying for which means the farm is losing money. Cobblestone's strawberries are sold by the pound, so you will need to weigh and pay before you enjoy.
What to Do with Your U-Pick Strawberries
You come home with buckets of strawberries. Now what? Well, once you've eaten your fill, you’ll probably still have leftover strawberries longing to be baked or preserved. Here are a few strawberry recipes that you can make for the family (or just for yourself).
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