Sue Gerardi remembers taking her two daughters to pick strawberries every summer. Today, the family tradition continues as she guides her two granddaughters through a strawberry patch in search of perfectly ripe berries at DeWolf Farms in New Egypt, N.J.
“It’s fun. We use to pick everything in the summer,” reminisces Gerardi. She adds that for her family, it’s important for her grandchildren to see where food comes from and to experience the freshness of picking fruit from the field.
In New Jersey, strawberry season only lasts about three to four weeks in late May through the first week of June, says farmer Kim DeWolf. DeWolf’s family has been growing strawberries on their “you pick” farm since 1967.
Although the season for New Jersey strawberries is short, DeWolf says the process actually begins in September when the fruit is planted. Through the winter, she covers an entire acre field of plants to protect them from the elements. In March, she uncovers the field and watches as bees pollinate the white flowers. By the last two weeks of May, the flowers turn to berries.
Dewolf and Mac Knighten of Johnson’s Corner Farm in Medford say the real difference between a New Jersey strawberry and one grown in California or imported from another country is the sandy soil. Although you can find fresh strawberries in the grocery store for most of spring and the summer, DeWolf says there is something special about a New Jersey strawberry.
“Eating them in the field, right off the vine, still warm from the heat tastes better, sweeter to me.”