Going strawberry picking in South Korea wasn’t my idea. It was Ava who’d suggested it when we were planning our trip. Since it was just the two of us visiting the country for the first time, we’d agreed that we’d try everything together, regardless of whose idea it was. Why strawberries, though?
I didn’t know it back then, but destination marketing is a beautiful, complex web spun from the most tantalizing threads of other industries’ work. Supermarkets in Singapore had recently begun to sell Korean strawberries, which were cheaper than strawberries from Australia or the US. Naturally (or not), the annual Nonsan Strawberry Festival was soon hyped as a fun event for tourists in Korea.
While the Nonsan Strawberry Festival only lasts a few days, strawberry season in Korea runs from December through June, so we went strawberry picking at a visitor-friendly farm instead. Here’s everything you need to know about going strawberry picking near Seoul or elsewhere in South Korea!
South Korean strawberries: a tender delight
Ttalgi (딸기, Korean for strawberry) is one of the main fruit crops in South Korea, and in the past decade the country has been one of the world’s top strawberry producers (source). Compared to their western counterparts, Korean strawberries are dainty. You can pop an entire berry at one go, and whipped cream is optional: Korean berries are bursting with tangy sweetness.
One possible explanation for Korean strawberries’ exceptional quality is the fact that most strawberry farms, and farms in general, are smaller-scale family farms. That’s why you can find several farms offering strawberry picking tours. However, you shouldn’t expect fluent English-speaking guides or a full-on tourist experience.
Ava had sold me on the rose-tinted idea of a bucolic spring day spent strawberry picking – just as I’d sold her on springtime cherry blossoms and the DMZ – but we couldn’t make it to Nonsan, the country’s main strawberry-growing region. Googling for strawberry farms near Seoul proved futile, since most Korean websites aren’t optimized for English search engines (also, this was back in 2012.) So, we decided we’d try our luck when we got to Seoul.
Finding a Strawberry Farm Near Seoul
Upon our arrival, we were further stoked by the presence of fruit sellers’ pickup trucks parked along nearly every street, overflowing with colanders of gleaming crimson berries. Yet, we wanted to taste them at the source, and the owner of our hostel was somewhat surprised when we asked where were could go strawberry picking near Seoul.
“It’s quite a popular activity for Korean families, but you’re the first tourists here to ask me about it!”
With the click of a few keys on Naver, he booked a strawberry picking tour for two at a small family farm just outside Seoul. We were all set!
SongChon Lakeside Farmis located at Ungilsan, just outside of Seoul in Gyeonggi-do province. For KRW 15,000 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 Farmis 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. (Google Maps location here)
Many of the strawberry farms near Seoul are located in Yangpyeong and the nearest metro station is Yangsu, one stop after Ungilsan. However, I haven’t visited any of these farms and cannot comment on the experience there.
I loved my freshly picked strawberries so much that I kept them in the hostel’s fridge and brought them them home in my hand luggage. I wanted my family to taste them and realize, as I did, how fresh produce tastes so much better than imported ones. Unfortunately, whether you can do this depends on your destination’s customs regulations. In Singapore, you can bring in fresh fruit and vegetables for personal consumption via carry-on.
If you want to take your strawberry haul home from Korea instead of eating them up, you’ll have to process them. Most strawberry picking tours will include an optional activity for you to turn your berries into strawberry jam, but you can also choose to finish your strawberries before leaving Korea and buy the farm’s homemade jars of jam instead!
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