Seeing those bright red, just picked, vine-ripened strawberries signals the start of summer! Or does it?
Many think of strawberry season as being from late spring through early summer when strawberries are available from local farms, but with strawberries being grown commercially and imported from Mexico, strawberries are in season year-round.
In North America strawberries are the first fruits to be harvested in the spring. Weather can affect when strawberries are in season more so than with most other garden crops.
The amount of rainfall and extreme high or low temperatures can impact the overall yield and flavor of the berries, and can shift when the strawberry season occurs.
The variety of the strawberry can also determine when the strawberry season will happen, and many farms will plant different varieties to help extend their harvest.
Most farms will plant June bearing varieties of strawberries which can be in season from late April through June and sometimes early July. Day-neutral varieties of strawberries will produce fruit repeatedly and can extend the strawberry season into the early fall.
When strawberries are in season depends on where the berries are being grown. Most small to medium local farms have strawberry harvest in the late spring and early summer.
The commercially grown strawberry season varies. In the United States most of the strawberries that are consumed come from California, where weather is ideal and can produce the fruit year-round, with the highest volume strawberry season being from April – October.
The second largest producer of strawberries for the U.S. market is Central Mexico where the strawberry season can be from November – March, with the peak strawberry season occurring during January, February and March.
The winter strawberry market is also flooded with strawberries from Florida, where the commercial strawberry season is the same as it is in Central Mexico.
Just because strawberries are available doesn’t mean that they are in season and at their best.
Commercially grown strawberries have to be treated with more preservative agents in order to maintain their freshness longer, and are picked before they are fully ripened which can affect flavor.
Strawberries do not continue to ripen once they are picked like other fruits, so waiting until the strawberries are 100% ripe before being picked from the vine makes a big difference in the quality and taste of the strawberry.
What Months Are Strawberries In Season?
In the United States locally produced strawberries are usually in season from April – July depending on the region.
Middle states across the country peak in early June, and for the Northern states and Canada strawberry season is not until late June or early July.
California’s climate is ideal for growing strawberries and they can be grown year-round, but the highest volume of California’s strawberry season occurs from April – October.
Mexico and Florida’s peak commercial seasons run from November – March, sometimes continuing into April. All of these dates can vary by a few weeks, earlier or later, depending on weather.
When Is Strawberry Picking Season?
Strawberry picking season, or U-pick strawberry season, can run from late February through late June. It is a quick harvest that only lasts about three weeks, so keeping an eye on local farms for information on how their crop is doing is important or the opportunity could be missed.
U-pick fields, roadside produce stands, and farmer’s markets will begin selling strawberries as early as the end of February in the Southern most areas of the U.S.
In the weeks that follow, the strawberry picking opportunities will continue to move North as the temperatures get warmer. The far Northern states and Canada usually wrap up their strawberry picking seasons by the end of June.
Why Are Strawberries So Cheap Right Now?
The cheapest time of year to buy strawberries is in the winter, especially February and March, and that’s because of simple supply and demand and where the strawberries are being grown.
Even though most of the United States isn’t harvesting strawberries at that time of year, the commercial growers are in season and there is regional overlap in harvesting times. Florida and Central Mexico have strawberry seasons that completely overlap one another, and that means direct competition for the market. Prices get pushed down even further because Mexico has lower production and labor costs when it comes to growing strawberries.
During February and March though, all three of the major commercial growing regions, California, Mexico and Florida, can have strawberries in season, and that means cheap berries for the consumer!
When’s the Best Season To Buy Strawberries?
The best season to buy strawberries is when they are in season near you! Yes, strawberries have become a seasonless fruit in the U.S. but that doesn’t mean that the strawberries are always at their best year-round.
The local farms don’t use as many preservative agents on their strawberries, because they don’t have to transport them. Also supporting a local business and small farmer is a big plus!
With regards to cost, strawberries from local farms won’t beat cheap winter prices, but U-pick farms are relatively competitive with their pricing, and if you bring your own basket to collect the strawberries it can save you a little bit more.
The strawberries that are grown locally will also be more likely to be picked at just the right time, when they are in peak season and their flavor is at its best. And that sweet, juicy taste is what strawberry season is all about!
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