You may be surprised to see strawberries filling supermarket shelves in Japan during the winter season. Westerners typically think of the strawberry as a spring or summer fruit that comes into season in May or June. However, in Japan, most strawberry cultivation is done not in open fields, but in temperature-controlled greenhouses. By growing strawberries in a controlled environment, producers aim to make their strawberries bigger and tastier, while ensuring that the whole harvest is equally successful.
All around Japan, there are many farms that open to the public for strawberry picking. Many farms offer 30-minute all-you-can-eat packages, and some even provide condensed milk to enjoy with the strawberries you pick. Since time is a precious commodity here, it’s worth knowing the best times to go strawberry picking, as well as some tips for finding the best fruit. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place!
The best time of year to go strawberry picking
Strawberry picking season begins in December and lasts until around the start of May. The best time to go picking is late January to February because many farms harvest heavily in December to meet demand for strawberry Christmas cakes and treats. By late January, the strawberries will have had time to bear fruit and become sweet again so there will be plenty for you to harvest. Also, keep an eye out for sunny weather. The key to sweet strawberries is exposure to sunlight, so you might be able to taste slightly sweeter fruit if you visit the day after a spell of 2 or 3 sunny days.
The best days and times of the week for strawberry picking
Aside from season, the best time to pick strawberries is first thing in the morning. By the afternoon, earlier customers will have picked all of the large, tasty strawberries and there might not be much left to harvest. Also, since many customers visit on the weekends, it is recommended to go on a weekday later in the week. The farm will be quieter and last weekend’s strawberries will have had time to regrow.
Tips for finding the best fruit
The main signs of the most delicious strawberries are:
- A bright red color from top to bottom.
- A natural shine.
- A warped stem.
- A strong, sweet scent.
- Clear, raised seeds on the body.
Strawberry tasting like a pro
There are a large number of strawberry species growing in Japan, so how do you find out which varietal you like best? Strawberries are more sour on the stem side and get sweeter near the tip. Therefore, strawberry tasting experts recommend eating from the sweet tip so you can fully savor the flavor and sweetness of each variety. It is said that the difference between varieties is harder to discern if you start from the stem side.
Now that you know how to make the most of your strawberry picking experience, why not find a farm nearby and get picking?
About the author:
Diarmuid is a writer and musician from Ireland, based in Tokyo. When not working on music in studios around the city, Diarmuid can be found in the bouldering gym, at the cinema, or enjoying a cold one in the local izakaya.