This spring as I crawled around the strawberry patch picking sweet red ripe fruit, I glance up to see my three year old son pull the largest white unripe berry he could find from a plant and drop it in the pan. I smiled knowing it was time to start teaching the next generation the art of strawberry picking.
Choose berries that are a bright red color. Take a moment to tip the berry up to view the tip and make sure it is red all the way around. If any white is on the berry leave it for the next picking. Any berry that has a bad spot or bugs should be picked and tossed out in the yard otherwise you may end up accidentally picking it and putting it in the pan. Pick all berries big and small to encourage plants to keep producing (plus the little berries have the best taste.)
The actual plucking of strawberries from the plants is an art form. It requires a gentle pinch on the stem of the strawberry within a quarter of an inch above the berry. If your fingernails pinch properly then a gentle tug to the stem will cause it to separate where you pinched the stem and you can gently place the berry into your pan. Handle the berry by the stem as much as possible to avoid bruising.
Picking a gallon of berries in a gallon bucket will mean the weight of the berries on top will crush those below. Keep berries a minimum of five to six deep. Also remember to shield berries from the sun as soon as possible. Placing them in the shade or taking them into an air conditioned house to help them stay fresh.
I know I have a few years of mutilated berries ahead of me but I look forward to the day my son will eventually learn the art of berry picking that my grandmother and mother taught me.