In the summer, one of my local and visitor favourites is to go strawberry picking. It’s something that will take a bit more work than picking apples at an orchard but trust me the end result is worth it. One of the easy-to-get-to farms to go to is north of downtown Toronto in Markham and it’s called Whittamore’s Farm. Head here for a weekend activity in Toronto with your family and you’ll have plenty of fresh and plump red strawberries to take home.
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Strawberry picking at Whittamore’s Farm
Strawberry picking experience in Toronto
When we got to the entrance to the farm we actually saw pylons and police cars set up to direct traffic. I thought, “Shit there’s going to be a lot of people picking strawberries” but turns out at the front of the farm, there’s almost a mini-farm playground area for kids and since it was Canada Day they must’ve been running some sort of event. We totally bypassed that and its parking lot by driving straight ahead on the dirt road round many many corners before we passed some vegetable fields and then at the VERY end we reached the strawberry field. We got there at around 4 ish PM and there were still A LOT of cars. Big families, small families, kids, adults…seems like everyone had the same idea as Chantelle for Canada Day long weekend.
We picked up our baskets from my trunk and head on in. There was a little portable house/container thing they had set up so the only thing we had to do before we head into the field was get our baskets weighed so they’d know what to subtract out when we cashed out.
The field itself was filled with people as well. It’s quite the funny sight as everyone in squat mode or stooping in back breaking positions and intensely focused on picking. Most of the rows in the front seemed to picked dry so most of the people we saw were in the back. When we reached marker #5, the kid there told us that we should head in from there and head straight back. So we started at the back and moseyed our way over to the right of the field which wasn’t so great. Towards the end of the day we made our way to the left of the field where we cashed in big…in our basket and in our mouths!
Picking strawberries isn’t exactly the easiest job I have to say, having gone cherry picking and apple picking. The thing with picking strawberries is that nothing is really at eye level. Since they come out of the ground you’re literally squatting the whole time, lifting up leaves and bush to get to the prize. This puts a bit of a strain on your back and knees so keep that in mind. You’ll also get a lot of sun out there since there’s no cover so make sure you have sunscreen on. That being said, it’s pretty fun. It’s almost like reliving your childhood when you were out looking for hidden easter eggs. I swear it almost became addictive because we’d shout for the other person whenever we found a “big” one. We didn’t strike gold too often but when we found a larger one we felt like a million bucks.
The strawberries at the farm aren’t going to be the same size as those that you find at the supermarket or grocery. Actually they’re probably 1/3 or 1/2 the size but they’re pretty damn sweet which is where it counts.
We ended up staying for about 2 hours which was probably on the lengthier side. When we cashed out, the guys there said we made out with a pretty good batch of strawberries.
The strawberries we picked
Here’s the loot we were able to get away with. All for just over $11. We thought we made out like bandits! Not only that, we ate our fair share on the field. Not too bad of a weekend activity from Toronto!
Best time to go strawberry picking in Toronto
So when is it the right time to go strawberry picking in Toronto?
Strawberry are at their peak between June and July. That said you can find strawberries more broadly between May to October which means that you have 4 full months to plan your trip to somewhere like Whittamore’s Farm to go strawberry hunting.
Tips on picking strawberries
- Chantelle was super smart on this one. She brought her own basket (as seen in the photos). This way we didn’t have to pay for one of the farm’s empty containers or paper baskets.
- Go as far to the back and either left or right of the field. Less people go out there so your chances of finding bigger strawberries is higher.
- Some strawberry bushes have really sharp thorns. If you want to be Super Man think about bringing some gloves or something. We just avoided these areas.
- If you’re going late into the picking time frame, even though your strawberries may look really fresh, they’ll start going bad really quickly after you pick them. Eat them the same day or the next day.
- Make sure to bring sunscreen.
Whittamore’s Farm is just north of Toronto
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Address: 8100 Steeles Ave. East, Markham, Ontario
Directions: Assuming you’re coming from the west of the farm, you’ll want to drive up to Steeles anywhere from McCowan to Ninth Line. Keep driving east and you’ll pass Standard’s Auto Wreckers. Keep going and you’ll see the big signs for Whittamore’s Farm.
Website: Whittamore’s Farm
Pricing in 2013:
- Strawberries: $2.25/lb. Now Picking
- Raspberries: $3.50/lb. Now Picking
- Green Peas: $2.25/lb. Now Picking
- Sugar Snap (Honey) Peas: $2.25/lb. Now Picking
- Snow Peas: $2.25/lb. Now Picking
- Green & Yellow Beans: $2.25/lb. Now Picking
- Beets: $2.25/lb. Now Picking
- New Potatoes: $1.25/lb. Now Picking
- Empty containers – 8.5 Litre Bucket: $3.50
- Empty containers – 3 Litre Basket : $1 (Raspberry season only)
Usually I think about apple picking in the fall but strawberry picking never occurred to me as a thing to do in the summer. Without having to drive too far from the city (20-30 minutes for most), you can spend 2 hours picking up some fresh fruit with friends, family, loved ones and have a blast doing it. For anyone looking for good date ideas, I think this one’s a winner as well.
When we got home, I ended up making strawberry shortcake and a banana/strawberry smoothie. Not too shabby :)
Have fun strawberry picking!