May is definitely my favorite month for Ohio produce, because it means both morels and strawberries are in season – the one (morels) are quite difficult to come by, but strawberries – they are quite plentiful.
So plentiful, indeed, that there are several options for pick your own strawberries. My favorite, hands down, is Hann Farms on the south side of Columbus.
Hann Farms is located on Lockbourne Road, just north of Rathmell Road. From my part of town (the west side), the easiest way to get there is to take 23S to Rathmell, east on Rathmell to Lockbourne, north on Lockbourne and it’s less than a mile ahead on your right. You have to keep your eyes peeled for the strawberry sign, otherwise it’s pretty easy to miss.
Even though it’s a pick your own field, you still want to make a quick stop at the farm market building to pick up a couple of bags (10 cents each), or to have your own containers weighed before hand. Once you’ve got that out of the way, follow the dirt farm road around to the field and have at it!
They have about an acre of strawberries planted, done as annuals so that they are ready early in the season. There are a few tricks and etiquette points to picking strawberries. First, you don’t want to pick while it’s raining or right after – strawberries don’t keep as long if they’re picked when wet. Second, you want to go before the heat of the day, because with the heat comes the bees – if you, like me, are skittish around bees, late morning is the best time for picking. Third, pick a row that doesn’t have anyone already picking in it – it’s bad form to cross into someone else’s row ahead of them. Make sure you don’t stack them more than 2-3″ high in whatever container you put them in, or they may get bruised.
Get them home as soon as possible, and into a shallow container and in the fridge as soon as you get home. Remove any bruised berries before storing them. Any berries that you won’t use immediately (within a couple of days) can be frozen – hull them first, and then freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet before moving to a freezer bag for longer term storage. Frozen berries are best for making smoothies or recipes where the strawberries will be cooked.
When picking berries, look for ones that are fully red without any white at the bottom or top – once picked, strawberries do not ripen further so you want to make sure you pick the berry at it’s optimal ripeness. Pick by wrapping your fingers and tugging gently. If it doesn’t pull off easily, don’t force the issue – it probably means that the berry needs another day or two to ripen. Try not to trample runners (vines coming out from the strawberry plants) trying to get to a berry that’s out of your reach. Picking berries is hard on the back, so don’t overdo it. Kids love to pick berries, so make a family day out of it and let them do all the work.
Once you’re done picking, take them back around to the inside of the market to pay. They are $1.49/lb. for pick your own – a full bag of berries (which you don’t want – remember the rule about stacking them no more than 2-3″ high) is about 6-8 lbs. depending. There is about 1 1/2 lbs. in a quart container.
They also have other vegetables that they grow on the farm and other Ohio products for sale in the farm market – later in the season there is much more selection.
Be sure to check out their Facebook page – they will post updates about the strawberry availability regularly.
If you’d like to go: Hann Farms, 4600 Lockbourne Rd, Columbus, OH 43207, 614-491-0812