Surprise! I know you don’t usually hear from us on Mondays, but this week, we have a post for you that just can’t wait. That’s because it’s strawberry pickin’ season in Connecticut, and if you blink, you might miss it!
Strawberry picking season began last week, and is expected to last for about two more weeks. So on Friday, Mandy and I took the kids to Rose’s Berry Farm in Glastonbury to sample their PYO (pick your own) offerings. Since only their farm stand on Hebron Avenue was open for PYO strawberries last week, that’s where we went. Starting this week, Rose’s will have PYO strawberries at both their Hebron Avenue farm stand and the main farm on Matson Hill Road. HOWEVER, availability and schedules may vary at both locations so it’s best to call (860-633-7467) or visit their Facebook page before you go. Sometimes the fields need a little time to recover after a busy few days of picking.
We arrived at the farm stand around 10:00. It’s really easy to find since it’s right on the side of Hebron Avenue with a big sign out front.
However, it wasn’t totally clear to us where we were supposed to go once we got there. Up front near the road is the actual farm stand, but it didn’t look like the strawberry fields were nearby.
Here’s the scoop: the strawberry picking is in the fields far behind the farm stand. If it’s busy, you might notice a row of cars parked off in the distance like this.
But if it’s not, you will just have to trust us that what you are supposed to do is drive out into the fields. I know it sounds a little funny, but trust me, it’s what you are supposed to do. When you pull into the parking lot, the turnoff is immediately on your right. You’ll see it marked by a sign.
Just follow that “road” around toward the tent in the distance (that’s where you will find picking containers, but we’ll get into that later). The parking area is also marked by signs.
Once Mandy and I had both figured out how to get up there, we got the kids out of the car and prepared to walk the short distance to the picking area. Even though it had rained the night before, the dirt parking area was surprisingly not muddy. However, there was evidence of what had certainly been muddy ruts at some point, so if it has been rainy, just keep that in mind when you choose your footwear 🙂
Mandy got the twins loaded into their stroller, and I just let Boo walk along with us. The ground is a little uneven, but you can certainly use a sturdy stroller here. It doesn’t need to be a fancy jogging stroller or anything, but this might not be the best job for that $20 umbrella stroller you picked up at the drugstore.
At the top of the little hill, we found the supply of free picking containers, a place to get a drink of water, and a very helpful young man who answered all the ridiculous questions I kept asking in preparation for writing this post and then showed us to the area where we could begin picking.
First, we grabbed a couple of the free containers–there were two sizes available, a quart and a flat. Then we walked the short distance to the rows we could pick in.
As a side note, just be aware that this is a real, live farm and not a kiddie playground. So there are things like pipes and ditches that could be dangerous if your small child is not properly supervised. I turned my head for a minute and looked back to see Boo standing on the edge of this giant hole with pipes in it. Yikes. (And it’s a whole lot steeper in person than it looks in this photo.)
Mandy was smart. She had brought little buckets for Bruiser and Sparkles. That is definitely the way to go if you want to try to get your little ones involved.
The disposable containers are kind of hard for little hands to hold, and especially difficult for them to keep from turning upside down and dumping all the contents onto the ground. I gave Boo one to use, but he was more interested in filling it with hay than strawberries anyway 🙂
The fields were filled with strawberries, and we didn’t have to try very hard to fill our quart-size containers. Mandy and I may have done most of the picking, but boy did the little ones have fun exploring the field!
And every so often we could coax them to pick a strawberry for us.
There were lots of little kids there, most of them walking around in the field like our kids. For moms (or dads!) who will be accompanying both a walking child and a baby, we saw a couple great ideas. One mom was wearing her baby in a BabyBjorn-type baby carrier while she and her toddler wandered around picking berries. So smart! Also, because you can park your stroller literally at the end of the row you are picking in, another mom brought her car seat carrier perched securely on its stroller base and was able to leave her baby sleeping happily with the sunshade up while she and her toddler picked. She never needed to be more than 10 feet away from the stroller. Perfect!
Because I only had Boo, I didn’t think about bringing my stroller with me. However, when we were ready to go, I was really glad that Mandy had brought her stroller. She was able to give my strawberries a lift back to the car in the basket under the stroller so that I could run after Boo and keep him out of trouble, and eventually just pick him up and tote him back to the car. If you have an, um, temperamental toddler (like Boo), I would recommend bringing your stroller out to the field just in case. Because how are you going to carry both your kiddo and your berries if it comes down to it?
Up until this point, we were thinking how easy this outing would be to do alone with your little one. After all, you can drive all the way out to the fields, and they are stroller-friendly to boot. But here’s the kicker: you can’t pay for your pickings out there in the fields. Nope. You have to load everyone and everything back into the car (including the berries you just picked), then drive back up to the farm stand. (Be sure to follow the signs, the route back to the front is not the same way you came; it winds around the back of the farm stand and comes out on the other side.)
Then, you have to park and go inside the farm stand to weigh and pay for your berries. Had we been alone, that would have meant getting our kids out of the car again, maybe loading them back in a stroller, and then heading inside the farm stand to pay. Seriously, there is no other way if you have little ones. Even if you park right smack dab in front of the farm stand, the counter where you pay is in the back corner, so you would not be able to see your car or keep an eye on the kids.
I don’t know about your tot, but after mine has just spent 30 minutes running around in the hot sun, and I’ve managed to herd him back to the car and wrestle him into his car seat, he’s not exactly going to be thrilled that I have to take him out and then put him right back in again. This arrangement would seriously deter me from coming alone.
Fortunately, Mandy and I could play zone defense that day. So we parked the cars close to each other, left the doors wide open for ventilation, and one of us stood in between the cars making goofy faces at the kids while the other one went in to pay. Then we switched. Easy peesy. So if you have little ones like we do, definitely go with a friend if you can.
It would be so wonderful if Rose’s would give you the option to pay for your berries right up there where you pick them. Even if it was just cash only. It would be so much easier to stop at a drive-through ATM than to have to bring Boo into the farm stand to pay. Of course, the farm stand is also filled with lots of other fresh fruits and veggies, Rose’s great sauces, jams and other condiments, fresh baked goods, plus potted plants, gardening items, gifts, and more. So if you do have a few minutes, and a cooperative tot, you may want to browse.
Overall, we spent about 45 minutes at the farm. After, we decided to head over to the “secret playground” I wrote about a few weeks ago, which is not far away, to really let the kids tucker themselves out. And it worked! Apparently, strawberry picking + an hour at the playground = 4-hour nap. Delicious fresh fruit and an entire afternoon to myself? I could get used to this 🙂
Where’s your favorite PYO spot?
1200 Hebron Avenue, Glastonbury, CT
Get directions here:
PYO also available at specified times at the main farm at 295 Matson Hill Road, Glastonbury; call (860-633-7467) or check their Facebook page for the most up-to-date PYO schedule and information.
Hours & Pricing:
Hebron Avenue Farm Stand and PYO Strawberries: Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Weather permitting.)
Strawberries are $2.50/lb; I filled a quart container and the total cost was around $3.
Major credit cards accepted at the farm stand with a $10 minimum purchase.
Tips & Things to Bring:
- I wore jeans and Mandy wore capris, but anything is really fine for an adult. For the kids, you’ll want to put them in pants though since they will probably spend a lot of their time climbing around in the plants.
- I wore sneakers and Mandy had on flip-flops, and although flip-flops worked out fine for her on our trip, if it turns out the fields are muddier on your visit, you’ll be happier if you’ve worn closed toe shoes. For the kids, put them in sneakers or boots (not sandals). Not only will they be traipsing around in the dirt, but they may end up with some squished strawberries on their shoes (not to mention the rest of their outfit). Much easier to just remove their shoes afterwards rather than try to clean their toes.
- It’s hot out there! Bring hats and sun block for the kiddos. There is water available at the tent where the picking containers are kept, but unless your kiddo can drink from a dixie cup, you might want to bring your own sippy cup.
- Bring little sand buckets for your kids to use to collect their strawberries. They will have an easier time carrying these around than the provided containers. Don’t forget to grab one of the free containers as well, so that when you go to pay, you don’t have to pay for the weight of the bucket too.
- No restrooms out in the fields; porta-potties near the farm stand.
- You can also buy a quart or flat of already picked strawberries at the farm stand. However, you will pay quite a bit more than if you pick your own. My PYO quart rang up at $2.90; the pre-picked quarts were marked as $6 each; 10 lb flats are $30 (vs. $25 if you pick 10 lbs yourself).
- Click here to see the entire picking schedule. You can also follow Rose’s on Facebook and Twitter to get updates about when their crops are ready for picking.
- Don’t forget about Breakfast with a View from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Sundays at the main farm on Matson Hill Road.
- Mandy loves to make these chocolate ganache cupcakes, and she thinks they would be even more delicious with a side of fresh strawberries. Sometimes though, she just makes the ganache frosting and dips the berries in it. Mmmmm.
- Another one of Mandy’s favorites is this strawberry rhubarb pie. If she doesn’t have any rhubarb, she just uses extra strawberries. Oh, and a store-bought Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust works just fine 🙂
- Neither of us has actually tried this fresh strawberry yogurt cake, but it just looks so delicious, we had to share!
- Rose’s also has lots of great recipes on their site. Here’s one for strawberry pie.
- What’s your favorite thing to do with fresh berries?
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