Strawberry picking season 2021!
Enjoy the new style of “ichigo-gari" designed with COVID-19 prevention in mind.
Have you ever tried "Ichigo-gari" (strawberry picking) in Japan? The best time to savor the biggest, reddest, ripest strawberries in Chiba is from January through May.
In Chiba, strawberry farms are located over different districts while Sanmu City is the most concentrated area. Nineteen strawberry farms formed a union called the "Sammu Naruto Strawberry Tourist Association", promoting strawberries of Chiba by selling different varieties of strawberry and providing strawberry picking. This year, they have taken some new measures to prevent infection. Mr. Kaji, the owner of Kaji Strawberry Garden, and also vice-chairman of the association, explained to us how the rules have changed due to COVID-19.
The rule of strawberry picking is actually very simple. For the usual method of picking strawberries, you can just walk through the greenhouses, pick the strawberries and eat in a limited time (usually 30 to 45 minutes). However, in 2021 you need to do a little bit more than that. Basically, all strawberry farms of the association require the customers to do 3 things: to wear a mask, to disinfect hands and keep the social distance with other customers. Also, you need to fill out an admission form and wash hands before entering the strawberry picking area. You can no more eat strawberries while walking, instead you can pile up the strawberries on the tray and eat them at three designated areas.
However, Mr. Kaji mentioned some of the visitors tried to pile up too many strawberries at once, and as a result dropped them on the path, that we should be aware not to do it. Don't worry, you will still have enough time to enjoy those fresh strawberries because you can pick as much as you want during the limited time. Besides, although some of the strawberry gardens allow visitors to bring strawberries home, most gardens including Kaji Strawberry Garden don’t allow it, so be careful not to go against the rules.
Although the method has changed a little bit, the great taste of strawberries remain no change. At Kaji Strawberry Garden, you can try Chiba Prefecture's original variety called the CHI-BA+BERRY. CHI-BA+BERRY has a short-conic shape and bright red color as its characteristics. Its sweetness and sourness are nicely balanced, you will realize what strawberries are supposed to taste like if you take a first bite of it.
For hygiene reasons, you need to pick every strawberry you touch. If you want to harvest the sweetest strawberries, remember to choose ones with the calyx, the leaves on the cap of the berry, bending upwards. Even if you aren't a strawberry expert, you can't go wrong picking these delicious strawberries! Always pick them with a delicate touch as they are very fragile. Grasp them by using your index finger and middle finger, twist your wrist and pull lightly in order to let the strawberry roll into your palm. Maybe it is quite difficult for the beginner to distinguish what is the best by only the eyes, but trust me, the one you pick will always be the most delicious one. Eating is only a part of strawberry picking, please also enjoy the "harvesting" part by yourselves in Chiba!