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Published June 09, 2010, 01:54 PM

Get your pails and buckets ready for berry picking season!

Fresh, juicy Minnesota grown strawberries are a summertime favorite and the picking season is upon us. Many strawberry growers in southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area are ready for business and other locations statewide will soon follow.

Fresh, juicy Minnesota grown strawberries are a summertime favorite and the picking season is upon us. Many strawberry growers in southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities metro area are ready for business and other locations statewide will soon follow.

“It’s shaping up to be a very good berry crop,” says Paul Hugunin, Director of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s Minnesota Grown Program. Hugunin says picking conditions can vary from farm to farm and change from day to day depending on weather and field conditions so consumers are advised to call the farm or visit their website to verify conditions and hours.

While there was a late spring frost, Hugunin says there was minimal to no damage to the statewide strawberry crop. He says weather has a big impact on the length of the season.

“Temperatures in the 70’s are perfect for strawberries as they ripen more quickly,” said Hugunin. “Cooler temperatures result in slower ripening but also a longer season. So far it looks like the strawberries are ripening right on time and the upcoming raspberry picking season will be a bit earlier this year which would be ideal for consumers,” he said.

Most growers allow you to pick-your-own or will pick the berries for you if you place an order ahead of arrival. Some other picking tips before you go:

Select only plump, firm, fully ripe berries. Smaller berries usually have the most flavor.

Find out if you need to bring your own containers for picking, and ask if children are welcome. Most farms sell berries by the pound.

Don’t heap the containers too full – you can easily bruise the berries on the bottom.

Remember berries will only last a couple of days in the refrigerator. For fresh-tasting local berries year-round, plan to freeze extra berries or make jam or jelly within a day or two of purchase.

Consumers will find 90 strawberry patches and pick-your-own farms listed in the 2010 Minnesota Grown Directory. Searching online at www.minnesotagrown.com makes it easy to locate a farm, get directions and contact information to call ahead. You can also sign up online for the Pick-of-the-Month newsletter which features information on the strawberry season, berry recipes and storage tips.

A free printed copy of the Minnesota Grown Directory can also be ordered by calling 1-888-Tourism.

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