Short, sweet strawberry season around corner
|Some of the first strawberries of the season beckon customers to sample at the Countryside Farmers’ Market at Howe Meadow.|
|Photo: Kathleen Folkerth|
Locally grown strawberries will be exploding with flavor in the region soon, and I, for one, am thrilled. After all, for several weeks I’ve been buying California and Florida strawberries that have been hit or miss — mostly miss. If I lived in those states, the fruit would probably be great. But I don’t think the voyage from there to here is too kind to strawberries. That’s why the appearance of local strawberries is cause for celebration.
From the looks of the line at the Huffman Fruit Farm booth at the Countryside Farmers’ Market at Howe Meadow May 19, I’m not the only one who feels this way. Customers waited in the hot morning sun from the time the market opened at 9 a.m. until the stand ran out about an hour later.
After taking advantage of a sample at the booth, I also decided to buy a quart. And yes, they were worth the money! The quart was packed with smallish to medium-sized berries that were sweet and ripe all the way through. No white centers!
The Huffman’s farm, which has a booth at the Saturday farm market nearly every week, is just slightly south of here, in Mahoning County, so the berries were ready earlier than we’ll be getting them at Akron area farms. I’ve always made a mental note to remind myself to check into strawberry availability about the time the school year is ending. The season can go up to around the first of July, but the pickings usually get pretty slim by late June.
We in the Akron area are fortunate to have a local farm with strawberries for picking nearby (and maybe just down the street from some of you). Boughton Farm, at 2256 Boughton Drive, just off Schocalog Road in Copley, grows several crops, but strawberries seem to be the most anticipated.
The farm’s Richard Boughton said he doesn’t expect strawberries to be ready until about June 1.
“The early blossoms got hurt from the freezes we had,” he said. “The second grouping looks good, but the season is not as early as we thought it would be.”
Boughton said a good strawberry season for him is about three weeks.
“I’ve seen it as short as one week, and as short as half a day,” he said. “You never know, and heat like this [week’s] can push them pretty fast.”
Boughton suggested checking the farm’s website at www.boughtonfarm.com or calling 330-864-6102 for an update on the season.
I’ve visited the farm once or twice each season for the past few years. In about an hour you can have four to six quarts picked — more if you bring the whole family.
Picking your own fruit assures you that you’re getting the freshest (and tastiest) stuff available. Not only that, but it’s significantly cheaper, since you’re providing the labor. I can recall last year leaving with four overflowing quarts and spending just about $5. If picking the low-lying fruit is something you can’t or don’t have the time to do, the farm also has recently picked berries for sale in its market.
Another local farm with strawberries that’s worth checking out is Rittman Orchards, 13548 Mt. Eaton Road (state Route 94) in Doylestown. That’s in Wayne County, but not too far of a drive from West Akron.
The farm’s website at www.rittmanorchards.com states strawberry season usually starts the first week of June, but it appears to be coming earlier this year. The phone number is 330-925-4152.
Rittman Orchards also has a newer store with ice cream, baked goods and fresh produce. I love going there, too, because it’s situated on a hill and has great views of rolling hills of farmland below.
If you’re willing to drive, there are several farms in Northeast Ohio that offer you-pick strawberries, especially in Stark and Wooster counties. A good resource on you-pick operations is www.pickyourown.org, which features a nationwide directory of farms with links and allows customers to provide feedback. The site also features information on canning and freezing.
Speaking of that, what do you with all those strawberries once you pick them? While they’re great just to eat, four or more quarts are a lot of berries. Making freezer jam is easy and a great way for novices to try their hand at preserving. The website for Ball canning products, at www.freshpreserving.com, features how-tos and recipes for those who are new to or experienced with preserving.
At my own home, I usually make a few jars of freezer jam. I’ve found they taste fine but are a thinner consistency than traditionally canned jams. Freezer jam is good if kept in the freezer up to a year, making it a great way to extend our short strawberry season. It’s a good idea to freeze in small containers because once thawed, it should be eaten within three weeks.
That’s never been a problem in our house!
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