Pick Your Own Sweet Strawberries

Strawberry Muffins

From the moment you step on a berry farm you’ll understand what it means to eat local. And you’re not just buying local, you’re also taking part in the process. Berry picking is a delicious way to promote healthy living and local eating to your family. Take this delectable opportunity to teach your family how food is grown and harvested.

“Strawberry-picking is an activity that educates children,” says Karma Lee of Buckwheat Farm in Apex. “But it’s also a fun, inexpensive activity that the whole family can enjoy.”

Most North Carolina berry farms open for strawberry season around mid- to late-April and continue until early June, although a warmer spring brings earlier berries and a cooler spring brings later berries. Strawberry season is a short season, so make sure your family goes before all the luscious berries are all picked over. (For a list of local strawberry patches, visit Where to Pick Local Strawberries.)

“There is plenty of fresh air and sunshine for everyone. Children love to hunt for the red berries, and parents enjoy the wholesome activity at a bargain price,” says Beverly Roberts of Double R Cattle Services Inc. in Hillsborough. “The freshness of the strawberries can’t be beat.”

Don’t worry about getting a little dirty on the farm with your kids; strawberry juice rarely stains. But if it rains prior to your visit, wear your rain boots to play in the puddles.

Your family won’t be able to resist the rows of vines hung with strawberries, and there’s no need to hesitate. Just be sure to call ahead to find out whether the fields are picked over before your family arrives.

Most farms offer baskets for individuals and families for picking and charge by weight for the berries you’ve plucked.

Strawberries aren’t just for eating right off the vine either. Be sure to save some of your goodies for tasty deserts and treats later. (See recipes below.) Freezing berries extends the fun of picking strawberries weeks after the season is over. (See tips below for picking and storing your berries.)

“Picking with your family is a great way to make memories,” says Crissy Porter of Porter Farms and Nursery Inc. in Raleigh. “Make strawberry-picking a yearly event and your children will always think of you when they eat a delicious strawberry.”  n

Alyssa Griffith is a UNC-Chapel Hill student in the School of Journalism and an editorial intern at Carolina Parent.


Mom’s Strawberry Cobbler

Ingredients:

½ cup butter (Don’t even think about using margarine!)

1 cup flour

1 cup sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

½ cup milk

1½ cups fresh strawberries mixed with a small amount of sugar (to taste)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Melt butter in an 8-by-8-inch pan. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and milk. Pour batter over melted butter. Pour berries over batter. Do not stir!

Bake for about 30 minutes until batter floats to the top and is brown. This is great plain or served warm with ice cream.

Source: Double R Cattle Services Inc.

Strawberry Blonde Muffin

Love muffins but hate the fat? Enjoy this recipe using puréed strawberries instead of oil. Your friends and family will never know they are eating a healthy alternative! Yield: 10 muffins.

Ingredients:

1¼ -1½ cups fresh North Carolina strawberries (divided)

½ cup milk

1 egg

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Using a food processor or blender, purée enough strawberries to make ¼ cup (about ¼ – ½ cup strawberries). Chop remaining strawberries (enough for 1 cup).

In a small bowl, combine strawberry purée, milk, egg, honey and vanilla and beat lightly. In a large bowl, sift salt, baking powder, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour. Lightly toss the remaining 1 cup chopped strawberries in the flour mixture. Pour the milk mixture into the dry mixture and stir until just moistened.

Fill muffin cups ¾ of the way. Bake at 375 degrees for 18-23 minutes (or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean). Let muffins cool for 5-10 minutes in pan.

This recipe was created by Johnson & Wales University student Emily Towner for the N.C.Strawberry Project.


TIPS FOR PICKING STRAWBERRIES

* Pick early or late in the day. Strawberry patches aren’t shaded.

* Wash your hands before you pick.

* Choose shoes that tie instead of sandals.

* Take water to stay hydrated while picking.

* Wear comfortable clothing.

* Wear hats and sunscreen.

* Pick only the red berries. Avoid oranges ones or berries with the green tips.

* Keep your family together while picking; it’s easy to get separated.

* Take a camera to catch family moments on film.

* Leave pets at home.

* Call ahead if you’re concerned the field may be picked over.

Sources: Double R Cattle Services Inc., Buckwheat Farm and Porter Farms and Nursery Inc.


Storing Strawberries

After you get home, spread berries in a shallow container (2 to 3 inches deep) and put in the refrigerator, uncovered. Wash and cap (remove stem and leaves) just before eating.

To freeze berries:

* Wash the strawberries and drain excess water by dumping them on a clean towel.

* Cap the berries (remove the stem and leaves).

* Put berries into a freezer bag or freezer container and place in your freezer. Note: These berries will freeze together.

To freeze individual berries:

* Place washed, capped strawberries on a rimmed baking sheet.

* Put the baking sheet in the freezer until berries are solid.

* Transfer berries to a freezer container or freezer bag for long-term storage.

To use berries in recipes, let them drain before measuring. Eat individual berries before they thaw completely.

Sources: Double R Cattle Services Inc. and Buckwheat Farm

Categories: Food + Fun, Green Living, Lifestyle, Recipes, Seasonal, Seasonal Fun, Spring, Things To Do