Strawberry Fields Forever
Strawberries are my most favorite fruit. And, I’m a purist when it comes to my berries. I like them as fresh as possible without sugar or syrup — tart or sweet, I love them. Now, I certainly won’t turn down strawberry shortcake, but just a plain strawberry to me is perfect. I get excited in April when I start seeing banners and signs saying “Fresh Strawberries”, and I get even MORE excited when I see that my daughter has a field trip planned to the Strawberry Patch with her class! I remember her first trip to Briley’s Farm with her 2 year old pre-school class. I couldn’t go with her because I had to work, but I looked forward to her bringing home a little pint sized container of fresh strawberries she had picked herself that afternoon. Much to my disappointment, my sitter informed me that little dear had eaten the entire pint in the car ride from the farm to the sitter’s house… like mother, like daughter I guess.
If you are strawberry lover like me, living here has significant perks. North Carolina is the 3rd largest producer of strawberries in the nation! We follow only California and Florida in production. But, what makes us SO unique is that we are THE LARGEST producer of strawberries that are sold farm to fresh market — direct to consumers as pick-your-own, farm stands, or to local super markets. Also, strawberries can be grown ANYWHERE in our state! The harvest season in eastern North Carolina begins as early as mid-April, while the Piedmont and Mountain regions follow shortly behind. Depending on how warm it gets, the season lasts 5 to 8 weeks. They are the first fruit to ripen in the spring ushering in the delicious season of fresh berries that follows!
There is no shortage of pick-your-own strawberry farms in North Carolina. There’s something so satisfying about filling your bucket with those yummy berries. It’s a fun activity for adults and children alike. To find a strawberry farm near you, you can visit the Pick-Your-Own website!
How to Keep Your Berries Fresh
When you’re buying your strawberries locally, you are buying them as fresh and delicious as you possibly can. So, you’re already ahead in keeping them as fresh as possible for as long as possible. Keep in mind the following steps and you’ll be sure to enjoy those strawberries for longer.
1) The first thing you need to remember is this: Do NOT wash your berries or pull off the green stems the minute you get them home. Strawberries are best when washed and cut right before you eat them.
2) Check your berries for freshness, discarding any berries that have mushy spots or mold growing on them.
3) Use a plastic or glass container that has an airtight lid to store your berries. Line the bottom of your container with a paper towel to help absorb any moisture.
4) Lay strawberries on the paper towel being careful not to overcrowd them. Lay another paper towel on top of this first layer and continue layering without overcrowding. Also make sure that when you put the lid on your container that you do not smash down your berries.
5) Seal the container and store it in the refrigerator.
Following these steps will keep your berries fresh for several days. Be sure to wash them prior to use to get off any residual dirt or pesticides that may have been used. Next week, we’ll be looking at some yummy strawberry recipes. You won’t want to miss it!