Strawberries are a Vermont spring and summer favorite and have long been a versatile culinary staple, from garnishes and toppings to pie fillings and more. Vermont strawberry picking season starts around mid-June and lasts until mid-July, so plan your visit accordingly! Picking your own berries is fun for all ages, and most farms will let you eat as you pick—what’s better than fresh berries right from the field? (Don’t worry, if you can’t pick your own or don’t have the time, you can find fresh-picked strawberries at most Vermont farmers markets.) But what are strawberries, and have they always been here in Vermont?
A Fruit by Any Other Name…
Are strawberries your favorite kind of berry? That’s actually a trick question! Strawberries aren’t technically berries by scientific definition. The way the little seed-like specks known as “achenes” are present on the outside of the strawberry and not on the inside make them fruit, not berries. The seeds of a “true” berry are deep inside at the very center of their flesh. And the “achenes” we liken to seeds are tiny individual fruits, each containing around 200 seeds. Strawberries are tricky little fruits, aren’t they? So, if they’re not, in fact, berries, why do we call them “strawberries?” Their name comes from the Old English “streawberige,” which is thought to refer to the straw-like runners the plants send out to propagate. Still, others believe that the name was derived from the process of skewering the fruits on a piece of dried straw and selling them in the markets as a treat. Who knew a misnomer could be so delicious?
Wild at Heart…
Wild strawberries have been growing here in Vermont for thousands of years, and with careful searching, you can still find them today*. Though they’re like each other in many ways, different wild strawberry varieties originated in North and South America and Europe. The earliest mention of the strawberry plant in Europe dates back to ancient Rome. In the 1300s, French farmers began taking wild strawberry plants from their surrounding forests and planting them in their gardens. And in the Americas, wild strawberry plants were so plentiful that indigenous populations didn’t need to cultivate them. Just as we like to enjoy strawberries today, strawberry lovers of yesterday enjoyed them fresh off the stem and in a variety of dishes, too. When European colonists arrived in the Americas in the 1600s, they sent samples of American strawberry plants back to Europe for study and cultivation. It wasn’t until a South American strawberry variety and a North American variety were hybridized by European botanists that the strawberry we know today was created. While wild strawberries are delicious, they’re neither as common nor big as cultivated strawberry varieties. Their scarcity and small size make it much harder to pick enough of them to be satisfying.
So, we recommend picking your own farm-cultivated varieties instead. Pick-your-own berries are often sold by weight, and some orchards will provide you with baskets or buckets, while others encourage pickers to bring their own containers. Be sure to keep an eye out for “Pick Your Own” signs (sometimes shortened to “PYO” or “U-Pick”) along the roads as you travel through the Green Mountain State!
Where to Pick Yours in Vermont…
Here are just a few places where you can pick your own strawberries in Vermont:
Wellwood Orchards – 529 Wellwood Orchards Road, Springfield, VT 05156 – 23.6 miles from our Weston, VT store – Website
Dutton Berry Farm – 407 VT-30, Newfane, VT 05345 – 30 miles from our Weston, VT store
Breezy Hill Berry Farm – 697 North Road, Castleton, VT 05735 – 37 Miles from our Weston, VT store
Full Belly Farm – 686 Davis Road, Hinesburg VT, 05461 – 77 miles from our Weston, VT store
Adam’s Berry Farm – 985 Bingham Road, Charlotte, VT – 82 miles from our Weston, VT store
Wild Carrot Farm – 511 Upper Dummerston Road, Brattleboro, VT 05301 – 32 Miles from our Rockingham, VT store
*Foraging wild plants can be dangerous. Know the risks. If you do forage wild strawberries, as with any other wild edible plant, make sure you are being safe, using a verified guidebook, and always go with an experienced forager. Find out more about foraging safely here