These days, you can get strawberries year round, and right now we are in prime season for local strawberries in many parts of the country. But if you have ever had the experience of pulling a fresh, perfectly ripe red berry off the vine and popping it in your mouth, you know supermarket berries can't hold a candle to that sweet, almost wine-like flavor.
If you don't have space or patience to grow strawberries in your back yard (they take a long time to get established), think about taking a trip to a u-pick farm. It's a fun way to show your kids that the food on their plates does not come from plastic clamshells at the grocery store, and the freshness and flavor can't be beat. Just be aware of how much you are picking...at our first trip to a u-pick farm we wound up with 25 pounds of cherries in about 30 minutes! Ooops-- but I did learn how to can!
You will want to preserve some of your harvest, since strawberries don't keep. You can wash, hull and freeze them. Freeze them individually first on a baking sheet lined with parchment, and then transfer them to gallon-size freezer bags...this way you can just take out what you need. I also have cooked sliced berries with some sugar and a little water to create kind of a compote and frozen that in plastic containers...this is great on top of ice cream or pancakes. Or you can make jam, either easy-to-handle freezer jam or somewhat-more-complicated hot water bath canning. Canning is actually much less scary than it seems...just follow all instructions to the letter. This is NOT the time to get creative!
Once you find a u-pick farm, call ahead to make sure there are still berries available. When you are picking, hold the stem half and inch above the hull and gently twist. Look for only the ripest, reddest berrries...they don't get any riper once you pick them. And if the berry resists picking, it's not ready yet. Ripe fruit will come right off the stem. Be very gentle with them; they crush easily. And try to avoid eating as many as you pick!
Have you picked your own strawberries? What did you do with your haul?