Tuesday dawned cool and slightly cloudy, with a fair bit of humidity in the air: just perfect for a trip to Stellenbosch to go strawberry picking!
Actually, the area around Stellenbosch is more widely known for its vineyards and wine routes, but there are in fact two places where you can pick your own strawberries, when they are in season (which is from about October/November to January/February, depending on the weather): Mooiberge and Polkadraai.
We’d been to Mooiberge Farmstall (Tel: +27 21 881-3222) on the R44, between Stellenbosch and Somerset West some years ago, but what I remembered most from it was the signs warning you not to eat the berries as you pick them! Surely that is half the fun! After all, you do have to try a couple to make sure that they taste nice! And when you’re a little kid, you don’t want to be watched like a hawk and sternly ordered not to munch that juicy, sweet, first strawberry you’ve found and picked yourself!
So this time we were taking mom-in-law Lissi to Polkadraai Farmstall (Tel: +27 21-881-3854). We’d been there before, and vaguely remembered where it was, but still ended up disoriented and taking a most circuitous though fortunately rather scenic route. The shorter and more fuel-efficient route is: N2 Eastwards towards Somerset West, left at Exit 33 onto Baden Powell Drive (R310) North, left onto Vlaeberg Road North, onwards to the intersection with Polkadraai Road. You’ll know it’s the right place if you can see the giant strawberry!
The cost: It costs R3 entrance fee, which you pay at the Farmstall, and you are given a large shallow bowl, in which you collect your strawberries. They charge R25 per kilogram (by comparison, Woolworths Online charges R24 for 400g or R35 for 700g, which works out to R50 to R60 per kilogram).
Some tips: It is best to pick them in the early morning, or when it is a cool and cloudy day, as berries tend to become softer in the heat of the day, which means they are more likely to become bruised. You should only pick the berries that are completely ripe, because they won’t ripen any further. The richer the red, the better! And when you pick them, leave the green stem and the top leaves on, so that they will last longer. Only wash the berries shortly before you eat them – unwashed berries are prone to spoiling.
And now, let’s go strawberry picking!