When to pick strawberries – and how to know when they’re ripe

Find out when to pick strawberries for the ripest and juiciest fruit

A pile of red strawberries - when to pick strawberries
(Image credit: Future)

Wondering when the best time to pick strawberries is for the best fruit? It comes as no surprise that they're amongst the most popular crops to grow at home, as there is nothing quite as a delicious as a freshly picked strawberry on a summer morning. 

It's easy to learn how to grow strawberries – and are difficult to resist. Knowing when to pick strawberries, however, can have a huge impact on whether you get the sweet, juicy treat you looking for, or a more lacklustre strawberry. 

Here we will explain when to pick strawberries and how to know they are ripe. 

When to pick strawberries 

The best time to pick strawberries can depend on when to plant strawberries and what variety you have. 

Rachel Crow, the garden editor for Homes & Gardens, offers her standard rule for picking strawberries, however. ‘Pick strawberries with their hulls attached, when fully ripe and entirely red. Fruit will ripen every day or two, so keep picking them at their best. Don't let the fruits get too dark or they will start to turn mushy.' 

Strawberries are a delicate fruit and can bruise easily so pick them gently to prevent blemishes that can turn them bad faster. The best way to do this is to gently pinch the stem between your nails and gently pull and twist simultaneously. The fruit should come away into your hand.

If you want to eat your strawberries that day, try to pick them at the warmest part of the day as this is when they are their most juicy. Make sure you know how to wash your strawberries, however, to remove any dirt or bugs that may be in or on the fruit. 

If you do want to store your strawberries, give them a light wipe-over before storing them in the refrigerator. 

When to pick summer-fruiting strawberries

close-up of ripe strawberry in the vegetable garden

(Image credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Summer fruiting strawberries are the most common strawberry variety and produce the largest fruit. These berries will be ready to pick when at least three-quarters of the fruit has turned red and they feel slightly soft when squeezed. If they are too soft, they have gone bad. Contrarily, too hard and they are not ripe yet. 

These plants have a short but heavy harvesting period over around two or three weeks in the early to mid-summer months around June to mid-August.

This is a similar harvest period to green beans, although the advice on when to pick green beans is different, so you can add to your gardening knowhow by learning the dos and don'ts of collecting your crop.

When to pick perpetual strawberries  

Small strawberries hanging over the edge of a plant pot

(Image credit: Getty Images / luvemakphoto)

Also referred to as ever bearers, these plants produce croppings of fruit over longer periods - often from early summer to early fall, often ripening between June through to September

These strawberries are not as large as the summer-fruting variety and the yields are not as big but are more frequent.

When to pick alpine strawberries  

Small Strawberries hanging from plant stem

(Image credit: Getty Images / Michele D'Amico)

These smaller plants grow best in shadier areas and produce the smallest but still sweetly flavored fruits year after year. Unlike summer-fruiting strawberries, this variety produces croppings continuously throughout its growing season between June to October.  

Do strawberries come back every year?  

Strawberries are perennial plants, so will grow back each year if the plants are healthy. 

It is important to note that the first year's harvest may be sporadic however should even out and become more predictable as the years go on. After three to four years, strawberry plants begin to produce fewer berries and may need to be replaced. 

Chiana Dickson
Chiana Dickson

Chiana is a junior writer for Homes & Gardens having joined Future plc as a new graduate in 2022 after achieving a 1st class degree in Literature at university. She first became interested in design as a child after spending her summers helping her parents redecorate her childhood home. As a long-time reader of Future’s homes titles, Chiana is constantly finding new inspiration at work as she focuses on emerging trends, how-to’s, and news pieces.