Wisconsin Berry Picking

Even late they’re still great!

A forecast calling for high 80’s and 70% humidity doesn’t compel most of us to spend much time outside unless we’re pool side with a big glass of lemonade.  However, for just an hour or two exploring one of many Wisconsin farms open for strawberry picking, you can reap a ripe reward.

For my family, an annual trip to the patch to pick 3 (sometimes 4) flats of strawberries is a tradition as important as cutting down our Christmas tree.  Actually, just the other day I realized this tradition is one not all Wisconsinites know about.  Lucky for me (and those of you new to berry picking) the July “start” of this picking season is the latest anyone can remember.  Normally Northeast Wisconsin’s strawberry crop is ready to pick by June and finishes in early July.  This year though, the damp and cool spring meant a late start for the juicy gems.  According to the Wisconsin Berry Growers Association (AND my mom,) hot, humid summer days make for the juiciest berries! But this sticky humid weather doesn’t make for the most comfortable picking.  Still, if you’re quick enough, you’ll have three or four flats of berries in no time! Just as long as more berries get into your box than your mouth!  Take it from someone who once got a little sick from way too many berries in the patch!

The only downside to picking mountains of berries is that they’re very perishable!  You’ve got to move fast.  Cleaning and storing them is a necessity!  It’s never a problem in my house where fresh strawberries mean one thing-strawberry jam!  Nothing beats opening up a new jar even in December!  At my house, we actually fight for the first spoonful  (the sugar crystalizes at the top)!  Jam making isn’t a project for the novice baker.  I learned that the hard way when my first attempt resulted in 12 jars of sugary strawberry soup!  Don’t let that scare you though, there are Jam instructions to find all of the instructions for jam making if you are brave enough to make an attempt!

Berry picking in Wisconsin isn’t just limited to strawberries alone; blueberries, raspberries, and cherries come in numerous varieties and are ready to explore!   While Michigan blueberries get a lot of hype Cain Orchards in Hixton, WI is a hidden gem!  The picking season for these powerhouse berries is just after the close of strawberry season in late July.  At my house, the antioxidant packed fruit gets consumed like it’s candy!  Even 3 lbs. of blueberries don’t last long!

Wisconsin’s other “pick able” sweets, raspberries and cherries, are ripe and yummy around late July! An undeniably sweet spot for cherries in particular is the Door County peninsula.  It’s true the tart cherries are exactly candy-sweet and those pits can be quite a chore but the only summer treat I like more than my mom’s jam is my grandma’s cherry pie! (With Door County cherries and homemade crust of course!)

All of this pie talk is making me BERRY hungry!  Looks like today might be a perfect time for me (and you!) to go to pick (or eat) a few!

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