Strawberry season is upon us. Our local farm will soon post signs around town advertising times to come and self-pick.
My children love to run through the fields with traces of berry juice on the fingers (and ultimately, on their clothes, too).
When I was largely pregnant with my soon to be ten-year-old, we headed to the berry farm on our last outing as a family of four.
I hoped all of that bending and plucking was sure to kickstart something, but no, it would be two weeks before she would make her appearance. That gave me plenty of time to make and freeze a summer’s worth of pies, jams, and jellies.
It is best to harvest berries in the cool of early morning, or in the evening hours. Heat will cause them to become soft and highly perishable once picked.
Look for berries that are plump and red. They should feel slightly soft as you gently pull them off of the vine.
At the market, look for strawberries that are perfectly formed with bright red flesh and vibrant green caps. You do not want to purchase fruit that shows any signs of bruising or soft spots.
Be on the lookout for out of season berries. If picked before their prime, they will stay firm and tart.
Strawberries can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days. They will need to be rinsed and hulled before serving.
If you have harvested a large quantity and wish to freeze some to be used at a later date, you must first rinse, hull, and then drain the fruit thoroughly before and patting dry.
Transfer to a large cookie sheet covered with wax paper or paper towels, and place in freezer until frozen. Once frozen, pour into freezer bags and freeze for up to a year.
Alternatively you can slice and dry them with a food dehydrator, or puree them and make fruit leathers (also with a dehydrator).
In the mood for something a little different? Try making a fresh strawberry shrub. You’ll find the recipe here.
My girls love to have tea parties with cups of homemade pink lemonade. The addition of fresh berries is the perfect way to achieve that perfect shade of pink.
This lemonade can be enjoyed from the backyard tea party to the annual summer barbecue.
About Jennifer Swartvagher
Jennifer is an experienced journalist and author. Her work has been featured on TODAY Parents, The New York Times Blog, BlogHer, Scary Mommy, and scores of other parenting and cooking publications.