There is nothing quite like a red, ripe strawberry just picked and still warm from the sun. I grew up across the street from a U-Pick strawberry farm and its going stronger than ever. As a kid we'd go pick some but most of the time Mom would just stop and buy a quart on her way home from work, nearly every evening during those few short weeks that are strawberry season. We couldn't wait to see that sign up the first day that they were ready for picking. Mom would make shortcakes, we'd add strawberries and a little bit of milk. Really, there is nothing like it. For those few weeks that was an acceptable breakfast as well as dessert.
In addition to right out of the carton, sliced, on shortcake and on your cereal we made jam. Once we picked several flats of strawberries. That night we got hit by a really bad storm in the middle of the night and it took down a giant tree in the backyard. While everyone else worked on cutting, stacking and picking up limbs, Grandma and I spent the whole day making strawberry jam. Take off the top, cut the berries and then smash them, watching the bright red juice get all over everything. There was something special in knowing that while it wasn't quite like the fresh ones, there would be strawberry jam in the freezer all winter long. In addition to using on usual jelly things it made an unbelievable topping for ice cream. The berries that didn't get made into jam were cut up, a little sugar added and frozen so that we could enjoy them during the winter. No birthday party was complete without some juicy frozen strawberries to eat with the cake and ice cream.
In the picture is one of the three boxes of strawberries we picked yesterday. Beautiful red berries hung heavy on the plants. Just when you think there aren't any more ripe ones you'd turn back the plants to find the beauties tucked underneath. We carefully covered them up and transported them through 3 states and made it safely home. This morning I was off to buy the makings for my first solo go at strawberry jam. I was a little discouraged not to find Sure-Jell in the first grocery store I tried--back home all the supplies to freeze, can and pickle are right there ready to fly off the shelves when summer comes. I did eventually find it and get home to start the work. A few hours later I had 18 cups of strawberry jam, 20 cups of sliced strawberries and a strawberry pie to show for my efforts as well as two kids who snacked on them all morning long.
Its Memorial Day, the unofficial start to summer. Having some of those berries tucked away reassures me that I can have a little bit of summer, and all the memories that go along with it, all year long. I'll be looking for other things from local farms to put away this summer, its one of the things that I remember fondly from growing up in a semi-rural area. I hope that although we live in the suburbs I can teach my kids to appreciate growing it, or at least picking it, yourself.