While it is early in the harvest season, one local delectable fruit to enjoy right now is the strawberry. Whether they are grown in home garden, freshly picked, bought at the local farm or purchased the old fashioned way at the grocery store, at this time of year they are delicious, juicy and a versatile ingredient in the kitchen.
Pick Your Own
For those looking for freshly harvested and enjoy the experience of picking strawberries directly off their vines, there are a few quality farms that offer pick your own strawberries and provide a fun event the entire family can enjoy. Just to name a few: Ward's Berry Farm, in Sharon, Verrill Farm, in Concord and Brookdale Fruit Farm, in Hollis, New Hampshire.
The Home Garden
Strawberries are fun to grow at home as they offer colorful foliage, flowers and a tasty reward. Early green foliage gives way to white flowers which become the red fruit, and eventually the leaves turn a deep red to purple in the fall giving a striking display. They are a perennial crop, in the sense that they come back year after year, but they also spread via runners, and many growers will cultivate the plants growing from the runners as the younger plants are often more productive.
In a home strawberry patch, you can expect it to give many years of production in one location, as long as it stays healthy and disease free. Strawberries require full sun and relatively frequent watering, especially prior to fruit production. During harvest season. Water sparingly as rain and moisture will cause berries to rot prior to ripening. Strawberries like a light fertilization in early spring and again in early fall, to promote plant and root growth.
Strawberries tend to survive winter best when mulched with hay or row cover.
Home gardeners also can enjoy strawberries as a container-grown crop, making it an ideal option for porches, patios and yards with limited open land. Strawberry pots are recognizable as having a hole in the top for several plants, and four or more holes around the sides for more plants. This allows for even more vegetation while promoting light penetration and air movement. Strawberry containers are also a great way to involve children or the elderly in a gardening project as it is an easy and quick crop to watch and maintain.
At the Market
When choosing berries at the market, they should be firm and still have green leaves and stems. Be aware that berries purchased on rainy or extremely hot days will have a shorter shelf life in the refrigerator, so be prepared to use them quickly. Also if possible, buy berries picked fresh the day of use as the flavor will still have the heat of the day on it which is better than a berry that has been chilled in the fridge. For later use, keep them uncovered in the fridge for a day or two.
There are so many shortcake varieties, however many residents in this area of the country prefer a biscuit, while others like an angel food or even lemon pound cake base.
Wash, chop and put berries on top, serve with freshly whipped cream, maybe with a dash of whiskey in it.
For Berries Romanov, it is best to follow an official recipe, but the ingredients more or less include berries, cream and black pepper. It is definitely worth a try; very different and tasty.
Berries are delicious when served with a balsamic glaze either as dessert or go perfect on salads with creamier cheeses like goat or feta.
Information for this column was contributed by Volante Farms, 292 Forest St., Needham, 781-444-2351, www.volantefarms.wordpress.com