Melbourne writer, reader and Managing Editor of Lip Magazine. www.lipmag.com
Published February 25th 2010
If you're one of those do it yourself types with a thing for fresh, juicy and locally grown fruits, then keep on reading – this one's for you.
Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm is located at Red Hill on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, about an hour's drive from Melbourne. This third-generation family business is set upon 240 acres of farmland, is the largest strawberry producer in the country and boasts some of the biggest, most luscious strawberries you'll ever see.
The farm is tended by some hard working folks throughout the year, and come November, hundreds of pickers work their way through the fields, selecting the berries to be distributed and sold throughout the country.
And this is where you come in.
Between November and April each year, the fields are open to the public for U-pick. The locals visit often and the tourists come in droves to pick their own berries.
So how does it work?
First, you pay at the shop or field register. It's $8 for adults and $4 for kids. This entitles you to 500gm punnet and 250gm punnet respectively. You then get to work your way through the fields to pick your berries. Once you're done, head back to the register to have your punnet weighed and off you go. It's that easy!
* Strawberries are best picked earlier in the day to avoid bruising.
* Ripe, red berries are best. They don't continue to ripen after they're picked, so it's best to leave the green ones behind.
* You basically pay for what you pick. Note that if your punnet is too full, you'll be charged accordingly for the extra berries. If you can't easily close the lid, you've picked too many!
* Don't eat the fruit until you've given it a good wash first.
* The sun can get hot out there, so slap on some sunscreen and wear a hat.
Of course, U-Pick is subject to weather conditions and environmental issues, and the fields aren't open to the public between May and October, but don't let that stop you from heading down. Why not take a seat in the Strawberry Cafe and indulge in some fabulous berry-inspired desserts? With a menu choc-full of delights like berry and chocolate fondue, strawberry sundaes and strawberry and marshmallow kebabs, how can you resist?
Sunny Ridge also have a variety of goods in their gift shop. Take home a jar (or three!) of freshly made fruit jams and syrups, or taste their selection of strawberry and fruit infused wines and liqueurs.
A day out at Sunny Ridge will be a day you'll remember long after you lick the last remnants of dessert off your lips.