It’s Strawberry Season!

Strawberries in the field at West Oaks Farm MarketIt’s strawberry season! While Mother Nature has been a bit fickle, the berries are ripening and local farms are gearing up for the harvest. But those red beauties aren’t the only thing in the garden. You can still find rhubarb and microgreens are coming into season.

When a Berry Isn’t Really a Berry

Although they’re called strawberries, they’re not true berries in the botanical sense. Strawberries are derived from a single flower with more than one ovary. This makes them an aggregate fruit. And it’s the way the plant produces “runners”. In fact, the name word strawberry is derived from its earlier moniker “strewn berry”.

Strawberry Trivia

The University of Missouri has a very informative article on the history of this delicious produce. Here are some interesting facts:

  • According to the US Department of Agriculture, the annual per capita consumption of fresh and frozen strawberries is 4.85 pounds
  • Strawberries are grown in every state in America and every province of Canada.
  • One cup of strawberries contains only 55 calories. They’re low in fat and high in vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, and potassium.

Strawberry Season in the Shenandoah Valley

Colder temperatures earlier in the month put a bit of a delay on this crop. But those who love the delicious berry should find them plentiful by Memorial Day weekend. “Right now they’re green but growing. But we’ll be up to our ears in strawberries,” says Levi Snapp of West Oaks Farm Market. And says Lori Mackintosh of Mackintosh Fruit Farm, “They like cool weather for blooming and hot to grow and get red.”

Strawberries are a great “pick your own” crop. Both Mackintosh and West Oaks will have PYO this season with COVID-19 guidelines in place. Mackintosh will offer PYO on an appointment-only basis with one person per row to adhere to social distancing guidelines. West Oaks does not require an appointment but will be monitoring capacity, social distancing, and encouraging patrons to use masks. West Oaks will also have freshly picked berries in its community store. And you can order berries from Mackintosh through  Barn2Door and then pick them up at the farm.

What to Look For in a Good Strawberry

“Ripeness and firmness of berry means it’s ready to pick,” says Levi. “Look for a nice deep, red color. Size doesn’t matter.”  Strawberries will typically keep in the fridge for five to seven days. But, says Levi, “To enjoy the real sweetness, they should be eaten right from the patch at room temperature for the best flavor.”

If you’re going to refrigerate your strawberries, Lori offers this advice. “Don’t take the caps off until ready to eat. And don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them. If you wash them first, they could mold quicker since they are very hard to dry off.”

You can freeze your berries once you cap and “core” them (use a straw to remove the core). Lori and her family enjoy making slushies in the blender with frozen berries. Just add a bit of water and some guava for sweetness. You can also give canning a try and make strawberry preserves. YouTube is full of easy canning methods that don’t require a pressure cooker.

Rhubarb and Strawberries – a Tasty Marriage

Rhubarb in a basket in a fieldRhubarb makes a great companion for strawberries. West Oaks Farm still has two varieties growing, Cawood Delight and McDonald. Cawood Delight is red while McDonald is green. And Lori from Mackintosh cans her farm’s harvest with a little sugar. “We have green and red together which makes it pretty in jars.”

When picking rhubarb, select stalks with only the bigger leaves. “Don’t cut it. Put your thumb at the base of the stalk and twist. Cut the leaf to about one inch, throwing away the remainder of the leaf as it’s not edible,” says Levi.

Both farmers agree that the plant has a short life span. You can keep it for a few days in the refrigerator. “But like celery, it gets rubbery after about five days,” says Lori.

If you’re looking for a tasty dessert, try this easy Rhubarb Strawberry Crunch recipe from allrecipes.com. West Oaks Farm Market is including a copy in their CSA boxes.

Ingredients:

rhubarb strawberry crunch larger image

Credit: allrecipes.com

 

1 cup white sugar

1-½ cups all-purpose flour

3 additional tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup butter

1 cup rolled oats

3 cups sliced fresh strawberries

3 cups diced rhubarb

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix white sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, strawberries, and rhubarb.

Place the mixture in a 9×13 inch baking dish.

  1. Mix 1-½  cups flour, brown sugar, butter, and oats until crumbly. You may want to use a pastry blender for this. Crumble on top of the rhubarb and strawberry mixture.
  2. Bake 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until crisp and lightly browned.

What Else is in the Fields – Microgreens

microgreens in their planters As the asparagus crop starts to wind down, you’ll find microgreens at Lydia’s Fields. Farm Manager Amy Page is a big fan of microgreens and learned about them while apprenticing at a farm in Asheville, NC. “I enjoy them because they grow so quickly,” says Amy. “And they’re basically foolproof to grow. They’re very versatile and can be used in everything from salads to smoothies.”

According to the website Healthline, microgreens are young vegetables. They’re loaded with nutrients and concentrated with flavor. “I favor the milder microgreens (such as cabbage, kale, mizuna, broccoli) because they are more versatile than spicier mustards,” says Amy. “I haven’t tried the herbal microgreens (basil, parsley, etc.), but I’m sure that they’re delicious.”

Once harvested, microgreens can be kept in plastic (bags or containers) in the refrigerator. They’ll stay fresh for 7-10 days. To get your microgreens, call Lydia’s Fields at (540) 822-0353 to place an order for farm pickup. Or order through  Local Line Shop.

Enjoy the harvest and keep checking Foodie News for more crop updates and great recipes.