I have no idea what my friend Avalyn and I were thinking when we planned our first visit to South Korea. We were going in early April and had rose-tinted notions of springtime: cherry blossoms, balmy breezes, sitting outside cafes watching the world go by. Somehow we were also possessed by some bucolic urge after reading about the Nonsan Strawberry Festival and decided we wanted to go strawberry picking.
(Updated Dec 2017)
Strawberries in South Korea
Strawberries are one of the main fruit crops in South Korea. The strawberry picking season in Korea typically runs from December to June, and during this time you’ll often see fruit sellers’ pickup trucks parked along the roads of Seoul, overflowing with baskets of sweet gleaming strawberries, or ttalgi (딸기).
In South Korea, there’s even a festival for this favorite fruit of mine: the Nonsan Strawberry Festival is a celebration among the farms in Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do (South Chungcheong Province), which is the country’s main strawberry-growing region.
Finding a Strawberry Farm Near Seoul
Unfortunately, with a tightly-packed itinerary that included a trip down to Busan and Jinhae, going to Nonsan was out of the question. As we eyed the roadside fruit trucks greedily, I suggested:
“Let’s ask our hostel if there are any strawberry farms near Seoul – maybe they can help us find a place nearby to go strawberry picking!”
Our hostel owner was a little surprised by our request, but very helpfully did an online search in Korean for us. Voila – there was small family farm outside of Seoul.
SongChon Lakeside Farm is located at Ungilsan, just outside of Seoul in Gyeonggi-do province. For KRW 15,000 (US$14) each we were given a supermarket-style punnet to fill, ushered into a greenhouse, and shown how to actually go about picking strawberries.
Discovery: strawberries make a “pop” sound when you pluck them, just like the sound you get when popping bubble wrap. I think I was high from the sound and the sugar, because you can eat as many berries as you want while filling your punnet and, well, I was hungry…
The locals, mostly parents with their young children, were probably amused at seeing two women in their twenties hopping like excited kids along the carefully planted rows of strawberry plants.
We also got the option to make strawberry jam, but we decided to watch others do it and buy a few jars of ready-made jam instead, since we didn’t want to sacrifice the strawberries we’d carefully picked.
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but strawberry picking in South Korea was really fun and eye-opening for a city girl like me. The best part was that I got to train my palate and know what fresh strawberries really taste like (they’re impossible to get in Singapore!) I probably won’t be able to enjoy imported strawberries ever again.
Getting to Songchon Lakeside Farm
SongChon Lakeside Farm is about a 90-minute train ride from central Seoul on the super-easy-to-use Seoul Metro network – just board the Gyeongui-Jungang Line to Ungilsan station! From there, a 5-minute taxi ride will get you to the actual farm.
Getting to South Korea
Spring (cherry blossoms peak in April) and autumn (fall foliage peak in November) are the best times to visit South Korea. Winter in South Korea can be fun for skiing and scenery, but is bitterly cold. Arrivals to Seoul are typically via Incheon International Airport (ICN).
Would you go strawberry picking in South Korea? What else would you like to know?