When to pick strawberries – why you should NEVER wait too long to harvest your fruit

Countryfile: Matt Baker told to 'do better' at strawberry picking

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They’re easy to grow and delicious to eat – nothing says British summertime like a ripe, red, strawberry. But how do you know when they’re ready for picking? And is it too late for a strawberry harvest this year?

How can you tell a strawberry is ripe?

In the UK, strawberries ripen from early summer to early autumn, depending on the variety.

As strawberries ripen, they change colour from green and white to a luscious bright red.

If you pick them too soon, while they’re still slightly pink, they will be tart and mild-tasting. If you wait too long, and the red colour starts turning burgundy, it’s a sign the fruit is on the turn and starting to rot.

You should wait until strawberries are bright red and firm all over before you pick them, because they do not ripen further once picked.

What is the best time of year to pick strawberries?

The best time of year to harvest strawberries depends on the crop and the variety. Even within the same plants, the fruits can mature at different times.

Strawberries are harvested in the UK from June to August, so we’re approaching the end of strawberry season.

Earlier this year, strawberries were delayed by unusually cold weather in spring 2021. However, after a spell of hot weather the sweet fruits returned to shelves in supermarkets.

There are early, mid- and late varieties of strawberries, as well as everbearers and alpines. If you can’t get enough strawberries, why not grow a mix of types so you can pick them over the entire summer season?

Here are some of the most popular varieties of strawberries amongst British gardeners.

Early varieties

These will be ready to pick from mid-June to early July. Strawberries that fruit early include:

Christine – this variety grows big, tasty, berries and boasts good disease resistance.
Gariguette – this variety grows elongated, sweet, fruits.
Korona – don’t let the name put you off – this variety produces huge crops of large berries.

Mid-summer varieties

Strawberries within this category are generally picked from late June to mid-July. Look out for:

Cambridge Favourite – probably the best-known variety of strawberries, this is one of the nation’s favourite strawberries to have a go at growing.
Hapil – this is a particularly reliable variety of strawberry and can produce fruits even when grown in drier and poorer soil.
Royal Sovereign – good things come in small packages: this berry is typically smaller but with a sweet and aromatic flavour.

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Late varieties

These berries crop throughout July and into August.

Fenella – these large berries can hold their own against heavy rainfall.
Florence – strawberries of this variety last particularly well once picked.
Symphony – this Scottish strawberry thrives in damp conditions.
Finesse – this strawberry produces fruit from July to September.

How do you store strawberries?

Strawberries are best enjoyed when freshly picked, but can be stored for a few days in the fridge.

The most popular way to preserve strawberries, if you’ve still got an impressive crop to harvest, is by making a lovely batch of strawberry jam.

Most strawberries don’t keep their shape when frozen, but if you chop them up and freeze them, they can be used in baking or in delicious smoothies throughout the year.

When is the best time of year to plant strawberries?

Even if it’s too late for this year, why not think about planting strawberries for next year? You might be wondering when to plant strawberries in the UK.

Strawberries from runners can be planted in the autumn, around September and October before the ground gets too cold.

You can also plant cold-store runners or shop-bought plants in April that should flower within 60 days of being planted.

You can grow strawberries in a dedicated bed, pots, or planters. You should choose a sheltered, sunny, spot in order for the best fruits.

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