The one on the left?

The one on the left?

First a Quiz, and then the Lesson:

Guess which strawberry was locally grown, and which one was imported?

Guess which strawberry was bred for size & travel?

And finally, guess which one tastes better?

To find out for sure, you’ll have to go strawberry picking…

Strawberry Fields Forever...

Strawberry Fields Forever…

Strawberries are the leaders of the berry world, followed by raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and finally, late summer raspberries. Strawberries arrange themselves in the shape of a heart — and as a reminder to stay sweet, and always lead from the heart.

2014-05-31 strawberry heart

Strawberries ripen in their own time, usually just before Memorial Day in May, when everyone seems so busy.  But skip school if you have to, and go strawberry picking at least once with your kids.  You’ll be glad you did.

If you have preschoolers, head for Thies Farms location on Hanley Road, which is a smaller operation with a toddler-sized playground.   If you have kindergarteners, head for the Thies Farm Maryland Heights location on a Saturday, when Farmer Dave brings out the tractor & wagon to help ferry families to the fields.

Hop on board the strawberry wagon!

Hop on board the strawberry wagon!

Because strawberries ripen on their own time, and field conditions are always in flux, always call first, and go early to beat the heat and the crowds.  Thies Farms now has three locations, one on North Hanley, one at Maryland Heights, and one at St. Charles, and their online presence can be a bit confusing.

Here’s the main phone number: 314-428-9878. Note that the MARYLAND HEIGHTS location can also be a bit confusing, as the road changed names in 2015.  It’s located near Creve Coeur Lake and SportPort; here’s the GPS:

3120 Maryland Heights Expressway; 63146

(Formerly known as 3120 Creve Coeur Mill Road; 63146)

Here’s the Thies web-site with location and hours; and here’s the Thies Farms Facebook Page. Again, be careful with web-site and Fb information, because farmers are very busy in the fields, especially in spring, and it’s hard for farmers to keep their online presence up to date.  Just call and ask for the strawberry report.  By the way, the way to pronounce Thies Farm is like this: “TEES Farm”

Check out this earlier Green Spiral post about picking strawberries, beginning with the end in mind.

Pick Me!

Pick Me!

If you’re looking for a more rustic and utterly charming strawberry experience, head for Lakeview Farm in St. Peters.  This is a small operation, located between strip malls, and marked by this tiny sign on the fence:

Strawberry Farm, Turn Left!

Strawberry Farm, Turn Left!

Again, always call first, as strawberry fields get tired, and sometimes have to take a nap. Farmer Karl has a cell phone and will answer your call in the fields.  One nice thing about Lakeview Farm is that they’ll let you pick berries in the rain.

Make sure your GPS says MEXICO ROAD, as apparently, there are two Lakeview Farms in the area.  People find these things out the hard way, but make special note, and you won’t have to:

Lakeview Farms

8265 Mexico Road; St. Peters 63376

(636) 978-8830

Here’s the web-site to the farm and here’s the strawberry report. And here’s Farmer Karl with a paying customer:

Ask Farmer Karl!

Ask Farmer Karl!

As mentioned, this is a small operation, so don’t expect any porta potties, or a credit card machine, — so bring cash. While picking at Thies Farms is a free-for-all, at Lakeview Farms, you will be guided to your very own special strawberry patch, marked with a flag.  This is only because farmers know that each little strawberry is precious, and to be treasured. Some people don’t like to be restricted in their strawberry picking, so it’s nice to know the deal in advance.   It costs about $1.60 for a quart of strawberries, or $10 for a flat like this:

Take me home!

Take me home!

Don’t forget to bring sunhats, drinking water and your rubber boots.  There are lots of u-pick destinations near Saint Louis, but based on annual Green Spiral field trips since 2008, these are the three best places, located nearest Saint Louis.

Here’s an “oops” when we got into trouble for letting kids climb on the tractor. It’s a working farm, and kids could get hurt.  Oops.

Oops, we did it again!

Oops, we did it again!

The strawberry picking window is short and sweet, and the chance to pick strawberries with kids is even shorter and sweeter; so turn your thoughts to picking strawberries as soon as school lets out, and don’t let your kids grow up without picking strawberries.

All for you!

Good for you!

“More fun than an iPad” says this three year old!

Here’s your 3 second parting shot of Bix singing “Strawberry Bad Guys Forever…”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZddxKyCHJ0&feature=youtu.be

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As with many things in life,

the trick to picking strawberries

is to begin with the end in mind:

2014 Index Begin with End

 

The end begins in the kitchen, for a short trip to the strawberry fields can leave you with long hours in the kitchen, when you might rather be napping.  Start with a simple recipe and work backwards from there.

insert recipe here

 

Located near Creve Couer Lake off Page Road and the Maryland Expressway, Thies Farm is a long favored Green Spiral strawberry picking destination, and it’s nice to watch their eco-tourism business grow.   It’s important to “Know Your Farmer”, and strawberry picking is a good first step in building eco-literacy in children.  The best age to pick strawberries seems to be from “The Magic Years” (pre-school) until second grade.

 

Miles of Smiles

Miles of Smiles

 

Thies Farm now has three locations; here is the GPS location for the strawberry fields in Maryland Heights as well as the phone number: 314-469-7559.  Call before you head out to make sure the strawberry fields are open. Farmers live outdoors, and they’re getting better at using technology, but the phone beats Facebook on most days.  Green Spiral almost never cancels a trip due to weather, and neither should your adventure group, but do know that strawberry picking is one of the few things you can’t do in the rain. The fields open at 9 am and you will want to get there early to beat the heat.

2014-05-31 Jack Shuff

You will get hot, and you will get dirty.  Children’s clothing will get strawberry stained, and so will your knees.  Take a sunhat or hoodie, and a bottle of water per person.  Short rubber boots are nice for kids.  The strawberry window lasts for about two or three weeks, and it’s easy to miss during the busy month of May.  Strawberries need sunshine to ripen, but when starts to get hot, know that your strawberry window is beginning to close fast.

2014-05-31 Evelyn Ryan

People want to know if it’s okay for kids to eat strawberries in the fields, and Farmer Dave once told me, (Jessie), that it was okay.  That said, there’s a big difference between a toddler nibbling on one precious strawberry, and a teenager mowing through dozens of strawberries that belong to someone else (the farmer).  Obviously, the important thing is to teach children about reverence and respect, for food, the farmer and for each other.

100_3676

Real Food Comes from Sunshine, and Dirt.

Strawberries are on the dirty dozen list, and many people ask if Thies strawberries are organic.  They are not, as it is difficult to grow organic strawberries at scale.  The best way to get local organic strawberries is to be first in line at your local farmer’s market, or to grow them yourself.

Thies Farm is often spotted hanging out with EarthDance Farms, which is a stamp of organic approval.  Here’s what Farmer Dave has to say their IPM (Integrated Pest Management) practices. https://www.facebook.com/notes/thies-farm-greenhouses/integrated-pest-management/281999848483956

Thies Farm

Now in three locations!

Strangely, when researching the topic of eating strawberries fresh from the fields, it turns out that the greatest danger from strawberries comes from people “fingering” the strawberries in the grocery store, which is why strawberries now come in those clam-shell containers.  Gross!  As they say “dirt is not dirty, people are dirty;” so fear not the  strawberry in the field, and be polite by not switching strawberries from container to container with your fingers at the grocery store.

That's me, Jessie, and Virginia

That’s me, Jessie, and Virginia

 

As a nature teacher and mom, I encourage you to study the many complex issues surrounding the simple act of picking strawberries. In my estimation, the experience of picking strawberries as children is so indelible, and so important, that it might well be considered part of a “true core curriculum”.

 

2014-05-31 Kevin, Miles, Amanda, Evelyn Ryan Family

 

Put strawberry picking on your bucket list, and make sure kids don’t grow up without picking strawberries.  Begin with the end in mind,

 

Strawberry Zentangle

Strawberry Zentangle