THE SCOOP: Picking those sweet, juicy strawberries
Is there anything sweeter than a perfectly ripe strawberry plucked from the plant? If there is, I can’t imagine what it would be!
Local strawberries will soon be available. Look for them at roadside stands, the farmer’s markets and in produce departments around the area.Pick your own strawberries
The sweetest, juiciest strawberries are usually the ones that you pick yourself. So, if you have a free morning, plan a trip to a local berry farm. (A Google search should provide a list of farmers in your area who allow pick-your-own.) Picking strawberries is relatively easy and provides a fun outing with the kids or grandkids as most farms will allow supervised children in the berry patch.
A few tips
Berry picking in the Aiken area usually begins around the first of April so it is just around the corner. Always call before you go. Weather conditions can affect the availability of berries. Also, a large crowd can pick a field clean by noon, so call first and plan to arrive early.
Most growers provide picking containers for the berries. Be sure to inquire whether you need to bring your own.
Wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and don’t forget the sunscreen. A snack may also be a good idea – the fresh air always makes me hungry.
Pick only berries that are fully red. Berries will not ripen off the plant. Part the leaves to search for hidden berries, but be careful not to damage the plants or fruit along the edge of the row.
Once picked, strawberries will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days but don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them as kthis hastens spoiling.
If you’ve picked more than you can readily use (somehow I always do), you can easily freeze berries for later use. Just rinse, remove caps and freeze whole berries. Or slice berries, add about 1/4 cup sugar per quart of berries and freeze. You will be able to enjoy a sweet treat from the freezer in the coming months.
Pick your own in the Aiken area:
Gurosik’s Berry Plantation, 345 Briggs Road, North Augusta. 803-278-0594.
Gurosik’s claims to be the leading berry producer in the CSRA. U-pick and pre-picked strawberries. Gurosik’s berries are also available at the Aiken Farmers Market and at several area roadside stands. A check of their website says strawberry season runs April through July 4.
Karen Tempel is an aspiring chef since she could reach the countertops, has been delighting friends and family with tempting treats for most of her life. She is the owner of Everyday Gourmet, a custom caterer in the Aiken-area. Visit her website at www.LetKarenCook.com or email her at Karen@LetKarenCook.com.