Not many people I know turn their nose up at a red, ripe, delicious Strawberry. If I knew anyone that did, then I’m pretty sure they grew up in Antartica and therefore were deprived of ever knowing what a strawberry was.
Here in Ontario, our Berry season is s-h-o-r-t, painfully short. So short if you are not paying attention, you miss some of the best berries in the world. You then kick yourself continuously until next year, sticking post-it notes all over the house with these words on them – “DON’T MISS BERRY SEASON”. Your spouse then wonders if he should call the Doctor for you.
Berry Season is only a few weeks every year, stretching from mid/end of June into the 2nd week of July and it is fleeting at best. It is also highly weather dependent. Sometimes the spring/early summer is so rainy and cold, there is nary a decent berry to be found, other times it is soooo hot and dry, the berries shrivel. This year though, we have had a perfect Spring and the berries are certainly showing the fruits of the great weather. Fruits…get it? ok, lame, but I couldn’t resist.
Now when you are finally able to unshackle yourself from your work desk, forget heading to the grocery store to get some. Those have been picked DAYS in advance and are already mushy from being squeezed and manhandled by every customer that comes along to inspect them.
Instead, head to one of the local farms in your area. Here in Southern Ontario we are blessed with many, many farms within a 15-20 minute drive of most every city. In the Burlington area, Hutchinson’s Farm is a great place to go, but if you are really pressed for time, then head to the Farmer’s Market where Hutchinson’s has a stall and you can at least get some that were picked that morning. If I am at the cottage, then I head over to Becker’s Berry Patch which is a short 10 minute drive away.
You can then pick your own gorgeous little red beauties, thus ensuring the freshest possible berries as well as enjoying the great outdoors. Mind you, if you are up north, bring your big, floppy hat for protection against the Deer Flies, more on those flying F-16’s of the insect world in an upcoming Blueberry post.
Once you get the precious cargo home, promptly plop them in the fridge (un-washed) to store and eat over the next couple days. Wash them just BEFORE you eat them to preserve that great strawberry flavour.
One of the best ways to enjoy strawberries all year is to freeze them. If you didn’t get any fresh ones and you know someone who did – you can raid their freezer to get your own. I am sure they won’t mind at all. Strawberries freeze very well. The only ‘slight issue’ for some folks, is that when you thaw them out, they tend to get really soft as the cell structures of the berries collapse. They still taste fantastic though but are kinda limp looking.
To freeze berries, hull and rinse and lay them out on a paper towel and dab dry with another paper towel. Place berries on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and pop in the freezer. Once frozen, remove the tray and place the berries in a Ziploc® baggie and store in the freezer.
I have successfully had berries last into February/March of the following year. Mind you, I have to buy at least 8 x 8 quart baskets as I love to eat berries almost every day with breakfast…or with ice cream..or strawberry/rhubarb pie or just on their own sliced into a bowl.
But one thing that is a must-make of summer is Strawberry Syrup…which of course, goes into one of my very favourite drinks….
the Strawberry Mojito…
Now if you’ll pardon me… I shall have to prepare for Happy Hour.