Strawberry season has arrived earlier than usual this year and that means some u-pick strawberry fields are already open for business.
That’s the case at Helsing Junction Farm, located in Rochester’s scenic Independence Valley, just south of the Chehalis River. Its u-pick fields opened May 22 — the farm welcomed the Olympia Community School that day — and the weekends since have been busy, said Susan Ujcic, co-owner of the longtime farm.
“It’s been busy and we’re happy about it,” she said.
Ujcic has co-owned the 40-acre farm, which is best known for organic vegetables, flowers and herbs, with Annie Salafsky for 25 years.
Still, the farm also grows and sells a selection of Rainier and Shuksan-variety strawberries, and those berries came in earlier this year because of the recent unseasonably warm and dry weather.
But arriving early also means that the strawberry season won’t be as long, likely ending in June rather than in early July, Ujcic said.
Among those in the fields on Sunday morning was Sarah Penn, co-owner of two Seattle restaurants: Pair, and Frank’s Oyster House & Champagne Bar.
Strawberries will be incorporated into desserts for both restaurants, such as strawberry ice box cake with marscapone, she said.
If that sounds decadent, try this: Helsing Junction Farm recently hosted a chocolate and strawberry gathering that involved picking strawberries and dunking them into a chocolate fountain, Annie Salafsky said.
Want to buy or pick strawberries at Helsing Junction?
The farm stand is at 12013 Independence Road SW in Rochester. The U-pick field is about one-eighth of a mile from that address, and is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends. Helsing strawberries also are sold at the Olympia Food Co-op, Spuds on Capitol Boulevard, and Farm Fresh Market on Black Lake Boulevard.
Out and about for strawberries? Here are some other locations to remember:
•Johnson Berry Farm
is on Wiggins Road in Olympia. It also sells strawberries at its farm stand.
Curious about the Seattle restaurant Pair? Pair is preparing a meal for a farm-to-table dinner experience at Helsing Junction Farm on July 19. Tickets are available through the Pair Seattle website.