In Season: Strawberries

StrawberriesFor the past two Saturdays, I’ve gone strawberry picking with my husband.  Last Saturday, the fields were almost empty, and a light rain fell on us for part of the time, as we effortlessly plucked the abundant, muddy berries.  At the beginning of the season, with very few people out, it was easy to fill 12 pints in no time.  This Saturday, although it was early, the fields were packed with people and the sun beat down.  We had to search for red berries, lifting up the leaves of the plants to see if any were hidden beneath them.  It a long time to fill our box, and my muscles began to ache from squatting.  I remembered that my friend had told me that farm workers call strawberries “fruta del diablo” – the devil’s fruit – and on days like this, I see why.  However, I wouldn’t undo the experience.  I like the feeling of having picked my own fruit, and I am humbled every time I do, thinking of people who make their living that way.

Eating seasonally is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve discovered in the past year.  Every summer month, a new fruit seems to shine, and I always change my mind as to which is my favorite.  In June, it’s strawberries, on cereal, in salads, by the handful, and with rhubarb in cobblers.  In July, it’s raspberries and blueberries, forming perfect fruit salads, mixed in with yogurt, and atop nondairy icecream on hot summer nights.  In August, it’s blackberries.  I have memories of being at my grandparent’s Wisconsin farm in August, picking blackberries from the woods, and eating bowls full of them at night, topped with a creamy milk.

If you have the chance to pick strawberries this June, take it!  We went through 12 pints in a week, mostly just through mixing them in with our breakfast foods, taking them with our lunches, and eating bowls full for dessert.  However, if you find yourself with too many strawberries, there’s a lot you can do.  Here are a few ideas:

1.  Try serving them atop salads, with your favorite nuts and seeds and a balsamic vinagrette.

2.  You can make this easy dressing:  in a blender, blend 1 cup of strawberries, 2 – 3 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 2 teaspoons of your favorite mustard, 1 – 2 teaspoons of your favorite sweetener, and salt and pepper.  We loved this sweet dressing on top of arugula (also in season now), with lots of nuts and seeds.

3.  Mix strawberries with rhubarb in a pie or cobbler.

4.   Freeze excess strawberries by cutting them in half and putting them on a cookie sheet.  Put the cookie sheet in the freezer and freeze.  When the strawberries are frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag.  Putting them on the cookie sheet first prevents them from sticking together too much.  Throughout the year, I like mixing frozen strawberries with oatmeal.

5.  Make strawberry freezer jam.  This jam does not require you to go through the canning process.  You can freeze it for up to a year and whenever you’re ready for some, put a jar in the freezer.  Google “freezer jam” and you’ll get tons of results.  The recipe is also on packages of fruit pectin, which you’ll need to help it jell and can be easily bought at the store (try the baking aisle).

Enjoy your berries!

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