2016-06-30 / From The Garden

FROM THE GARDEN

Short (but Sweet) Season for Strawberries
By Cynthia Gibson


Strawberries grow well in above-ground rain gutters despite the shallow depth for roots. Photo by Cynthia Gibson) Strawberries grow well in above-ground rain gutters despite the shallow depth for roots. Photo by Cynthia Gibson) It’s now the perfect time of the summer to get to the strawberry fields and pick some baskets of these tiny red jewels. But hurry – they have a short season that lasts for only a few weeks. This week and next are prime time for picking your strawberries.

The strawberry is so versatile. Your imagination is the only limit to how creative you can be. From an old-fashioned shortcake to ice cream, cake, jam, coulis, or a strawberry salad, the list of recipes is endless.

Picking these summer gems makes for a perfect family outing. We are fortunate to have two large local venues for this delicious experience.

The strawberry fields at Quonset View Farm in Portsmouth are legendary. These fields have been producing strawberries for 100 years and offer the perfect picking experience. Quonset View Farm is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. It also features late summer strawberries that will be ripe through the end of July.

Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown also grows varieties that you can pick well into July. If you prefer to take the strain off your back or creaky knees, Sweet Berry has boxes of already-picked berries just for you. They also have strawberry pies and ice cream.

My backyard strawberries just started ripening this week. I grow Mara des Bois berries. They are a wonderful day-neutral berry, which means the plant will have a minimum of two crops each summer. The berry farms grow early summer, summer and late summer berries. All of these varieties have a time limit or season; rarely do the farms grow day neutrals.

A few strawberry facts: The darker the berry, the sweeter it will be. Keep the little stem and pointed hat on the berry to keep it fresh. Only de-stem when you are ready to eat. They can be kept in the fridge overnight, but are best when eaten immediately after picking. Give them a quick rinse only before eating or using them in a recipe.

According to the growers at Sweet Berry Farm, “strawberries will not ripen once they have been harvested, unlike bananas, avocados and many other fruits and vegetables. White or green berries will never be as sweet and juicy as the bright red ones.”

Picking strawberries marks the official start of a gardener’s summer. It is the first cultivated fruit to ripen and tastes oh so sweet. Just imagine the intoxicating aroma of ripe berries in a bowl. If you grow your own, you know what fresh crushed strawberries taste like over vanilla ice cream.

In fact, you’ll almost wish you did not bother with the ice cream.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

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