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Strawberry Fields

Berry Picking Strategies and Recipes

Picking your own produce is a wonderful memory-making experience with your family, and nothing beats eating a perfectly sun-ripened strawberry. Heading to a pick-your-own farm with the kids often creates this idealistic picture in your mind. Do you imagine children frolicking in the fields and posing for Instagram-worthy pictures? Sometimes we have to throw the ideal image out the window and get real.

Strawberries are often the first pick-your-own fruit of the year. Here are some tips for a low-stress fruit-picking experience:

• Always call ahead to the farm you plan to visit. Weather and crowds may have affected the crop that is available to pick. The peak picking season for produce can shift based on various factors, including the weather.

• Sunscreen, hats, and bug repellent are important. Sun is what makes those fruits so delicious, but we need to remember to protect ourselves. In fields growing strawberries or other fruits, there will not be much, if any, shade. Some bugs and bees are important to plant life, so be aware and prepare the little ones for their presence.

• Wear appropriate shoes and clothes. Remember you are on a farm. It’s likely you will be traipsing along dirt paths through the fields. If it has rained recently, it may be muddy.

• Remember to pack some wipes or rags to clean up any sticky faces and hands. Kids (and adults!) can’t resist eating freshly-picked strawberries off the vine. The red juices will drip down cute little chins and arms.

• Give each kid her own basket for fruit, and work in a tutorial on what is ripe and what is not. Most kids are visual learners. Show them a bright red berry on the vine that is ready to pick. Then, show them one with some white areas, and teach them that it needs more time on the vine. You could even do a little taste test of ripe and unripe berries. You might want to set a picking limit to encourage kids to find the ten, fifteen, or twenty best berries. You get the idea!

Strawberry Freezer Jam  

Mix 1 quart mashed strawberries with 4 cups sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes. Mix a 1-oz package powdered fruit pectin with ¾ cup water;
heat to boiling. Stir pectin mixture into fruit for a few minutes. Spoon the jam into jars leaving a ½-inch at the top. Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours. Jam can be stored for 3 weeks in the refrigerator or freeze for up to 6 months.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp  

Rhubarb looks like a large celery with a reddish-purple hue. The bitter crunch combines well with sweet strawberries. Stir 3 cups sliced strawberries, 3 cups diced rhubarb, 3 tablespoons flour, and 1 cup sugar. Pour mixture in a 9×13 dish. Combine 1½ cups flour, 1 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1 cup oats with a pastry blender or a fork. Sprinkle mixture over fruit and bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until bubbly. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

Strawberry Spinach Salad 

Toss sliced fresh strawberries, slivered almonds, sliced green onions, and baby spinach together with a poppy seed dressing. This simple, light salad is so hearty, it can be made ahead and the greens won’t wilt.

Ashley Gates manages the logistics of connecting families with good food at Dominion Harvest, a local home delivery service committed to providing families with fresh, local products. She lives in Bon Air with her husband and five kids.
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