Strawberries, The Other Red Fruit
From the UW Extension FEEL GOOD WRITING
Do you know which Door County red fruit is ready for harvest around the 4th of July? This “other red fruit” is often overshadowed by the Door County cherry, yet it’s the luscious strawberry that urges our summer garden tending and irresistible taste testing of the garden bounty.
With the many varieties grown on the Peninsula, strawberry season often exceeds the length of the cherry season. If you’re looking to plant your own patch of strawberries, make sure you determine how you would like to use the fruit so that you can select the type that best meets your needs. For example, if you are interested in making strawberry jam you’d prefer to have a bumper crop all at once so perhaps a June bearing cultivar would be best for you. On the other hand, if you prefer to graze on fresh strawberries throughout the summer months, then an ever-bearing cultivar may be a better option.
Annie Deutsch, local UW-Extension Horticulture Educator recommends choosing strawberry varieties that will tolerate cold Wisconsin winters and have high yields paired with low incidence of disease. Her recommendations are Honeye, Cavendish and Jewel varieties as June bearing and the Fort Laramie, Ogallala and Ozark Beauty varieties for ever-bearing strawberries.
If you don’t have the inclination to grow your own berries, local farmers markets are a great option for locally grown berries picked at the peak of ripeness. Be sure to get to the markets early, because the crowd favorites can sell out! Or, if you are looking for an enjoyable family outing, there are a number of pick-your-own operations throughout the area.
When you return from the market or the fields, you will surely have far too many berries to consume right away! Strawberries preserve beautifully. You can quickly lock in the summer flavor of berries by freezing what is in harvest now. Freezing retains more of the original berry flavor, color, texture and nutritional value. Freezing requires less skill, time and equipment than other home-canning methods. Produce packing companies achieve high product quality by flash freezing fruits and vegetables. In this flash freezing method, produce is rinsed, dried and frozen flat on trays then packaged into bags.
To achieve high freezing standards of whole berries, such as strawberries or blueberries, follow these steps:
Freeze berries the same day as harvest. If berries have a stem cap, remove cap then rinse fruit. Do not soak any sort of berry in water. After rinsing, spread berries onto a cooking rack or dry, clean dish towel and allow to air dry. This step is critical when freezing in a “flash freezing” method, any residual water will cause ice crystals to form when freezing.
When berries are thoroughly dry, place them into a baking pan or tray that is lined with a different clean, dry dish towel and place into a freezer for 3-4 hours. Remove from freezer, bring edges of the towel together and use the towel as a guide/funnel/slide to get the berries into a plastic freezer baggie. Enjoy all year long as loose fruit pieces that are easy to pour from the bag!
Save tart cherries for pies, juice, bounce or jam. Come to think of it there isn’t a season in which a food preservationist can’t enjoy a Door County Fruit! Cheers!