Why buy Local Strawberries?
Strawberries, picked ripe and in season, are sweet, fruity and juicy. However, most of the strawberries you find in the store are picked before they are ripe, and then are shipped to stores after ripening off the vine. They are never as tasty as they could be.
In addition, most store berries are bred for longevity, for size, for disease resistance, and appearance, not for taste. Strawberries are something you should buy in season, ripe, and grown for flavor. Fortunately, you can find such gems from your local farmers, and your own garden.
Local strawberries are fantastic fresh, and of course in jam. But you can easily pair them with other flavors, such as black pepper, balsamic vinegar, or basil, for a fantastic new flavor experience. Most strawberry recipes are sweet, but there are also savory options out there.
There are lots of recipes out there that star the strawberry. You can find recipes like fruit salsas, smoothies, lots of baked goods and desserts. You can add them to salads with a simple vinaigrette. There are recipes for ice creams and sherbets, or you can make strawberry syrup. A syrup can be used on waffles, pancakes, yogurt, or diluted for a delicious drink.
If jam is what you are interested in, you can find recipes for jams with basil, with pepper, or vanilla. Those jams can make a peanut butter sandwich taste amazing, or be used for desserts, with yogurt, or over waffles as well.
Strawberries are perennial plants, meaning they last more than one year. Most send out runners to make baby plants, which can then be planted to get more plants.
Strawberry plants come in three varieties, June-bearers, ever-bearers, and day-neutral. June-bearers have their crop (surprise!) in June. Ever-bearers have two crops, one in the spring and the other in late summer/early fall. Day-neutral plants have small berries throughout the season.
To find fresh, local strawberries, you have to wait for them to be in season, which should be sometime in June. Buy them up and eat them fresh, and then freeze, dehydrate, or can the rest. Strawberries are fragile, and won’t last long without some form of preservation.
Likely the local strawberries you’ll find at the market will be red. However, strawberries also come in white, yellow, purple, and alpine varieties. The alpine ones are tiny, and the most flavorful. However, unless you grow alpines yourself, you probably won’t find them. I’ve grown them, and they were fantastic.
Bring your strawberries home and leave them whole until you are ready to eat them. Store in the fridge for a few days, or on the counter if you plan to eat them that day. Fresh local strawberries won’t last, so plan to eat them or preserve them soon.
Freezing strawberries is simple, and can preserve the delicious taste of in season berries all winter long. A frozen berry will be soft when thawed, so it is perfect for smoothies, for making jam when it’s cooler or you have time, or to use in baked goods or foods that don’t require a perfect berry.
To freeze whole berries, place them on trays to freeze, then bag them up when frozen so you can grab what you need rather than thawing out a whole bag. Since the thawed berries will be soft and juicy, you may prefer to blend up your berries and simply freeze a puree instead. You can then break off what you need later on.
Strawberry jam is an old favorite, and an easy way to try your hand at water bath canning. Plain strawberry jam, with in season fruit, is amazing. But you can also try your hand at some gourmet jams and really wow your palate.
- Strawberry Balsamic Black Pepper Jam
- Strawberry Basil Jam
- Roasted Strawberry Jam
- Strawberry Vanilla Jam
Use your jams as they are, or use them for sauces for meats, or in yogurt. Swirl them into smoothies. Cover a block of softened cream cheese and spread on crackers. Jam can be so much more than just sandwiches!
Dehydrating local strawberries can be a great way to boost the flavor of your homemade trail mix. Individually dried berries can be delicious as a snack, or added to cereal. Or you can puree your fruits with other flavors (or as is) and make homemade fruit leather.
You can also preserve the strawberry flavor with vinegar! Then you can add homemade strawberry vinegar to salad dressings and make sauces or marinades. You can also make vinegar with strawberry scraps!.
Celebrate the Strawberry
Maryland celebrates local strawberries in a big way, with many strawberry festivals across the state. Likely there will be one near you. Take some time and check one of them out!