Strawberry picking season is winding down here in the Ocean State. There’s still time, however, to gather some of these fragrant red beauties at a nearby farm. After the long cold winter, the picking season this year will be extended a bit beyond the 4th of July, which in past years has been the cut-off date for picking in New England. Before you venture out to pick berries, or any other fresh produce, be sure to call your local farm to find out the conditions and times.
When gathering fresh strawberries, select firm, fully red berries. Strawberries do not continue to ripen after they are picked. Store unwashed berries in the refrigerator for three to five days. And do not hull the strawberries until you are ready to use them.
Picked more than you can use right now? Freezing is also a good option for keeping freshly-picked strawberries. After washing and hulling them, place them in a single layer on a baking sheet, then freeze them until they are solid (this sometimes takes overnight). Transfer the frozen berries to a resealable plastic storage bag, and keep frozen until you are ready to use them. Frozen strawberries will keep for up to six months.
Perfectly ripe strawberries are best eaten out of hand, but they also make great additions to salads and desserts. Quick-and-easy ways to enjoy strawberries include: drizzling with balsamic vinegar; dipping them into sour cream or yogurt, then sprinkling with brown sugar; mashing the berries and folding them into some sweetened whipped cream; combining with other fruits for a luscious fruit salad.
Another way to enjoy strawberries is to bake them into a lovely pie, combined with some fresh rhubarb, which is now appearing at farmers’ markets and local stands. This Strawberry-Rhubarb Cream Pie would also make a delicious take-along for a Fourth-of-July party
Strawberry-Rhubarb Cream Pie
1 cup sliced strawberries
3-1/2 cups chopped rhubarb
3 large eggs, beaten slightly with fork
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter
Pie crust for 2-crust 10-inch pie pan
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In large bowl, mix together strawberries, rhubarb, and eggs. Combine sugar, flour, and nutmeg; add to fruit mixture. Place bottom pie crust in 10-inch pie pan. Pour fruit mixture into crust; scatter slivers of butter on top. Add the top crust, and cut gashes for steam to escape. Bake for about 1 hour, or until top crust is browned and fruit mixture is bubbly.
Serve warm or at room temp with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Makes 8 servings.