StrawberriesWhether they’re baked into pies, sprinkled over ice cream, blended into margaritas or eaten fresh right off the plant, strawberries are ripening in Iowa and, they’re ready for picking.

Tami Stotts, with the Iowa Department of Agriculture, says the weather is finally cooperating for strawberry growers statewide. “I’ve heard that the crop looks really good,” Stotts says. “They were in need of a little rain in some areas and a little heat and this week we’ve had both. I’ve had a few reports that they’re ripening just a little behind schedule but many of them are opening this weekend.”

Fresh-picked strawberries are a tasty, fat-free treat and they kick off the growing season in Iowa. She says visiting a local farmers market or going to a you-pick farm is a great way to find fresh berries. “I would suggest that before you head out to a strawberry patch you contact them because it can vary so much around the state,” Stotts says. “Before you pack up the family and head out, make sure the place you want to go is open.”

Once picked, strawberries don’t continue to ripen like some fruits and vegetables, so select vibrant red berries. Also, strawberries have a short shelf life and should be eaten within a few days of being picked. You can find strawberry growers by visiting the Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association’s “Farm Search” website.

(Reporting by Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City)