Summertime blueberry (and strawberry) picking in Southeastern NH, plus Massachusetts
Southeastern New Hampshire offers the summertime opportunity to pick your own blueberries, with the best month probably being August of each year. I've been told that the last week of July and the first 2 weeks of August may be the best weeks (7/2010: this year's weather conditions seem to have moved the season earlier by 1-2 weeks; 8/2012: an early hot spell seems to have moved the season earlier this year as well), but even in late August I got some of the biggest and sweetest blueberries I've ever picked. You can pick blueberries far superior to those typically found at the supermarket, and more cheaply, too (of course, you're providing the labor).
Due to less sunny weather than usual, 2003 was a worse season than normal. It seems that if there isn't enough sun to stimulate the production of sugar, the berries don't achieve their normal sweetness. This syndrome would theoretically apply to strawberries, too, I heard, but I had reasonable luck with them in early July 2003, perhaps because there was more sun during that part of the summer.
8/2006: This summer has been extremely sunny, hot, and humid. The blueberries are bigger than I can ever remember, and not just that, the number of big blueberries is more than before, at least based on the 8(!) boxes I bought from the Monahan Farm! The blueberries may not necessarily be sweeter than I can ever remember, but they are plenty sweet anyway!
Farms which offer pick-your-own blueberries (or other fruits or vegetables) are often smaller operations. Some of them sell pre-picked fruits (and maybe vegetables) and/or prepared products, including baked goods, fruit preserves, etc. Many farms allow you to bring your own container (they'll weigh it before you start picking and after you're done), and typically also sell containers for folks who don't bring their own.
It's worthwhile to call a farm to get up-to-date availability information on its pick-your-own fruits. Either a live person or a pre-recorded message ought to provide that information. Some farms (perhaps especially those that are smaller operations) may close with little or no advance warning, or might have delayed openings, on selected days, so that's another reason to call before you go.
Suggestions for a successful pick-your-own blueberries outing
- To minimize mosquito bites, wear long sleeve (a collar which you can turn up can help protect your neck), long pants, socks, and a hat. The hat will also protect you from too much sun (though sunscreen may still be advisable), and can be helpful (particularly a thin and easily waved hat) to swat bugs away!
- If there is a chance that the ground will be wet from rain or dew, you'll likely want to wear waterproof shoes and/or bring a change of shoes and socks.
- Many prime berries can only be easily picked by getting down and dirty, e.g., by kneeling down close to the bottom of a berry bush. If you're willing to make that effort, it's helpful to wear thick pants that you don't mind getting dirty. They'll make it more comfortable if you kneel down on twigs, etc., and you won't mind if you find yourself kneeling down on fallen blueberries, which will stain.
- Ask the staff for recommendations about which section of blueberry bushes should have the best berries.
- Take a container with a lid so that you can cover your berries if it rains. Picked berries don't keep very well if they are wet.
- Seal your container before walking around to reduce the risk of accidentally spilling the fruits of your hard labor.
- Prime ripe berries are often found on the same bushes as unripe ones, so don't ignore a bush which has many green or red (not yet ripe -- see picture above) berries -- that bush may have some perfectly ripe berries, too.
- Different farms will likely have different prices per pound, so you can shop around.
- Be aware that prime berries will get fewer and fewer toward the end of the season.
- Annual reminder: traffic will be an issue for Stratham farms on the weekend of the Stratham Fair , which might be scheduled for the last weekend of July each year (second to the last in 2012, though). Early Saturday morning coming up from the south was reasonable in 2008.
- The car floor can be far hotter than a car seat, which can make a big difference for berries.
|With the goods
Strawberry picking (added to this web page 7/2003)
Most of the notes above for blueberry picking also apply to strawberry picking. I've been told that the usual season for strawberry picking, however, is between mid-June and July 4th. Also, since strawberry plants are much smaller and lower to the ground than blueberry bushes, you wouldn't normally need to kneel on the ground to pick them.
The deep red strawberries are typically the sweetest. Since strawberries are larger than blueberries, if the pickings are good you can pick a good quantity of the former faster than you can a good quantity of the latter.
Getting there from Boston (around an hour's drive, or an hour and a half for Hickory Hill Farm)
Drive up Route 95 North, and then take the indicated other roads to get to any of these places.
- Hickory Hill Farm Strawberries Dover; 281 Back Road, 603 742-0553, 603 742-5869.
Exit 4 to the Spaulding Turnpike. Take exit 6N, which puts you on Dover Point Road. Take a right onto Middle Road. When Middle Road takes a 90 degree turn to the left, stay straight to get onto Back Road. The farm will be on your left after a little more than half a mile.
- Monahan Farm Blueberries East Kingston; 603 642-8166, and (7/2010) 24-hour information line 603 642-8186.
Exit 1 to Route 107 North (7/2008: a local told me she thinks of it as  West, as I think it used to be labeled; about 6.3 miles from the exit). The Monahan Farm is at the intersection of Routes 107 & 108.
On at least one day in 7/2004 and another in 8/2006, they sold a significantly larger quantity of pre-picked blueberries and raspberries than
was available (often little or none, in my experience) at others of these farms. All of these farms primarily cater to customers who
want to pick their own berries, so it's not
surprising that it's not easy to find large quantities of pre-picked berries.
- Saltbox Farm Blueberries, and sometimes raspberries Stratham; 321 Portsmouth Avenue, 603-436-7978. CLOSED MONDAYS.
Exit 2 (toll) to Route 101 West, to Route 108 North, to Route 33 (which is Portsmouth Avenue, I gather). Perhaps a minute or two after you pass the (large) Stratham Hill Park area on your right, Saltbox Farm is on your left. My traditional favorite for picking my own blueberries -- friendly staff and the location is convenient. As of 2005, bigger berry bush varieties have traditionally been in the rear (7/2008: some nearer the front). Sometimes, the berry selection here seems to be noticeably better than elsewhere, but that may just be a consequence of finding the right (or wrong) bushes from which to pick berries.
- Blueberry Bay Farm Blueberries Stratham; 38 Depot Road, 603-590-1612; e-mail: email@example.com; website: http://www.blueberrybayfarm.com
This farm changed owners for the 2003 season. A short distance from Saltbox Farm (see those directions) down Route 33 toward Stratham Hill Park, take a right down Sandy Point Road (or maybe that's already Depot Road, I have to check), then a right onto Depot Road. Blueberry Bay Farm will be on your right. (Or see the farm's directions on their website) Different blueberry varieties were very clearly marked in 2003, noting typical berry size, sweetness, and ripening timeframe (e.g., earlier or later in the blueberry picking season). Because basically all the berries were not very sweet during the poor season in 2003 (explained above), I have yet to reach a personal verdict about the sweetness of different varieties.
And for Massachusetts... (just discovered this resource in 8/2005)
Someone else's web page on pick-your-own blueberries (and other things) farms in Massachusetts
E-mail Ken Ho
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