There’s nothing like the taste of freshly picked, ruby-red strawberries. Lucky for us, strawberry-picking season is just around the corner so we’ll be able to get our fill of these tasty gems.
Have you planned when and where you’re getting your local berries from this year? If not, be sure to check out the Prairie Fruit Growers Association website for an interactive map of U-pick farms or visit the Direct Farm Manitoba website for a list of farmers’ markets across the province where you can buy pre-picked berries. Call ahead to confirm the best time to drop by, but expect it to be early to mid-July.
Before you start picking, here’s a little True or False quiz to see how much you know about this Prairie favourite.
- Strawberries are berries. T or F?
- Removing runners from strawberry plants encourages more fruit development. T or F?
- The older the strawberry plant the more it produces. T or F?
- On average a typical strawberry plant produces three to five strawberries. T or F?
- A serving of strawberries has more vitamin C than an orange. T or F?
- Strawberries will not ripen once picked. T or F?
- It is best to pick strawberries with the green part left on. T or F?
- Fresh strawberries are best kept on the counter. T or F?
- False. Despite their name, strawberries aren’t technically berries, they’re ‘accessory aggregate fruits.’ This means one strawberry is actually a combination of several fruits. The true fruit of the strawberry plants are the yellow dots on the outside of the red flesh we enjoy so much. There are about 200 dots, called achenes, on each strawberry and each achene has one seed inside.
- True. By removing runners, the plant’s energy is concentrated on fruit production. Runners, also called stolons, will develop their own roots making them ideal for propagating or growing new plants.
- False. Younger plants are more productive than older plants. If you grow strawberries at home, replace your plants every two to three years. Use the runners to grow new rows every year.
- False. During a typical growing season a strawberry plant produces between 10 to 15 berries. Berries ripen in stages starting with the king berries – the first and biggest berries. These are followed by medium-size secondary and tertiary berries. The last berries are the fairy berries, the smallest but often the most flavourful berries of all.
- True. Gram for gram, strawberries have slightly more vitamin C than oranges, but they’re both great options. Strawberries are also low in carbohydrates and a good source of manganese, folate (vitamin B9), potassium and various antioxidants. Fresh or frozen, strawberries are a healthy choice.
- True. Strawberries need to remain on the plant to fully ripen, so only pick the ones that are red all around. Strawberry patches need to be picked every one to two days during peak season to get beautiful ripe berries.
- True. Strawberries will keep better if you pick them with the cap on. This green part, technically known as the calyx is also referred to as the cap or hull. It is best to keep the cap on until after washing strawberries to keep water out.
- False. Fresh strawberries should be kept in a shallow container in the refrigerator for two to three days. Do not remove the cap or wash them until ready to use. Any type of moisture will lead them to spoil quicker. Freeze strawberries if you are unable to use them right away.
Whether you have a patch at home, plan an outing to a U-pick or buy some at a market, enjoy the sweet, juicy flavour of local strawberries this summer. But don’t wait too long, the best strawberry picking only lasts for a few weeks.
Here’s a sweet and a savoury strawberry recipe for you to try this summer.
Real Fresh Strawberry Shortcakes
There’s something magical when you combine freshlywhipped cream with fresh, local strawberries.
- 4 c. sliced fresh strawberries
- 2-4 tbsp. honey
- 1 tbsp. Grand Marnier (optional)
- 1 c. whipping cream at least 35% fat
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 c. whole wheat flour
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/3 c. butter cold
- 1 c. buttermilk*
1. Mix strawberries with honey and liqueur (if using). Set aside.
2. Beat whip cream with sugar until stiff peaks form. Set aside in fridge.
3. Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C).
4. In medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt.
5. Cut in butter until mix resembles crumbs. Make a well in the centre.
6. Add buttermilk* (or pour 1 tbsp. lemon juice in measuring cup and add enough milk to make 1 c.) to dry mix. Stir until just moistened.
7. Drop dough onto lightly greased cookie sheet into 8 equal mounds. Leave 1 inch between.
8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden.
9. Slice biscuits in half. Layer with strawberries and whipped cream, cover with top of biscuit and add a dollop of whipped cream and strawberries on top.
Makes 8 biscuits.