I took my girls to pick strawberries for the first time this past weekend. My sister gave me a recommendation for a pick your own berry farm, and I now I feel like I owe her big because the place was so good!
We went to Silkey Gardens, located in Dundas, MN. Dundas is a small town on the Canon River, about 35 miles south of the Twin Cities. The drive there was beautiful. When you exit Interstate 35, you are in rolling farm country. Silkey Gardens is a family run business. They’ve been growing berries for 10 years, but the land has been in the family since 1952. Besides strawberries, they grow raspberries, blueberries, apples and they are working on growing blackberries but those are not yet available for pick your own.
Silkey Gardens is set up really well. Upon entering, you drive up the driveway past the strawberry field. The parking spaces are right in front of the strawberry patch. They have a small shade tent set up where you get your box or containers for the berries. Silkey’s grows two kinds of strawberries, and when you get your container you can try both varieties to decide which you want to go pick. We picked some of both for two reasons – first, both kinds were delicious, and second because strawberry picking is fun!
Once we had our containers we were ready to go. They walked us over to the strawberry patch and showed us where and how to pick these sweet gems. The woman that helped us was so kind to my girls, which I always appreciate. While we were picking, employees were walking around asking if anyone needed more containers. The customer service was out of the ballpark. And bonus, there was hay in between the rows of strawberry plants which protected everyone from muddy shoes in the car on the way home – brilliant!
The strawberries freshly picked taste so much better than buying them at the big grocery stores where they have been shipped from far away. The berries were at the peak of ripeness, juiciness, and more flavorful than any strawberry I have ever had. Not to mention they were actually cheaper than buying at the grocery store! Strawberries are paid for by the pound. In addition to the fields, you can also find Silkey Gardens produce at farmers markets in Dennison and Lonsdale, and at the Just Foods in Northfield.
Though strawberry season is very short lived (only about 3 weeks a year) we will definitely be making it an annual summer event every year!
Harvesting dates in the berry world are never set in stone; timing and weather is everything. However, the general rule of thumb is..
- Mid June to early July = Strawberries
- Early July = Raspberries
- Mid to late July = Blueberries
- Fall = Apples (of course!)
Here are some tips to make your strawberry picking a success for your family:
- Berry picking availability can change daily. Always check the website or call for any farm you planning to visit.
- It’s hot and sunny out in that field! Sunblock and hats are helpful. Bring plenty of water to drink!
- Expect messy fingers! Sometimes you grab a berry that is too ripe and it squishes in your fingers a little or sometimes little fingers are just too overzealous and squeeze the berries too much! In any case, wet wipes can be handy!
- Silkey Farms accepts cash or card, but not all farms are set up for card payment. Check their website or call ahead of time.
- Everyone will want to eat berries immediately on the ride home! I always keep a gallon of water in the back of my car to refill water bottles when we are out. Turns out that water came in handy to be able to wash some berries!
- Plan ahead for what you are going to do with all the berries you pick! We froze some, made Freezer Jam (super easy and delicious) and a Strawberry Pie (which is now my new favorite desert!) See recipe below
- Find more places to pick berries across the state right here!
- Special Event! If you do choose Silkey Farms, the town of Dundas is having Dundas Celebration Day on June 27th. Make a day of it! (Bring a cooler and ice for your berries if you won’t be heading home right after picking)
Freezer Jam Recipe – Freezer jam is not cooked, so the flavor is like ripe fruit and the texture is chunky. Plus, no standing over a hot stove in the summer! Expect a softer set than canned jam with a fresh fruit taste.
Jam Source: Thriving Home Blog
Fresh Strawberry No Bake Pie Recipe:
- ¾ package cream cheese, softened
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 baked graham cracker crust
- 2 cups strawberries, hulled
- 4 squares bittersweet chocolate, melted
In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and vanilla until blended and light. Set aside. In a separate chilled bowl, whip cream until it doubles in volume. Continue beating on high while adding sugar a little at a time. Add cream cheese mix and beat until just combined. Pour mix into pie crust and cover with berries. Drizzle with melted chocolate. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 4 hours.