Get Ready for Strawberry Season!

By Kathy Savoie, Extension Educator, University of Maine Cooperative Extension

To say that I am excited for strawberry picking season is an understatement. I’ve missed out on Maine’s pick-your-own (PYO) strawberry season for the past two years and I can’t wait to get to the fields! If you’re wondering where to find local pick-your-own berries, check out the website to find a listing of Maine’s PYO farms near you. It’s best to know before you go if you need to bring your own berry containers or not.

Beyond eating them plain, my favorite way to eat strawberries is just washed and sliced up into a bowl with a dash of sugar and a splash of cream. There is no shortage of recipes for using strawberries in baked goods, pies and frozen treats. UMaine Extension offers several recipes for using strawberries in baking and cooking.

I always pick enough so I’ve got plenty to preserve to use later in the year. I’m stocked up on freezer-grade storage bags as well as canning jars, lids and pectin to use for my favorite low-sugar strawberry jam. In all honesty, strawberry jam is my favorite. I’ve sure tried a lot of jam and jelly varieties over the years but nothing is quite as satisfying to me as simple strawberry jam. My goal is always to pick enough strawberries to freeze for use in smoothies, pies, and other delights throughout the “off-season”. I simply wash, hull, dry and freeze the strawberries whole in a freezer-grade storage bag that I have labeled and dated. As my children have grown and gone, I freeze fewer berries each year but they are quick to ask for a jar of jam (or two) on their way out the door.

Have you ever considered entering your home preserved goods into Maine’s Agricultural Fair Exhibition Halls? Most fairs have categories for jams, jellies, pickles, tomato products, relishes and more. Beyond ribbons, fairs pay premiums directly to you for winning entries. I have a friend who takes advantage of this opportunity each year at her local fair and makes a good chunk of money that she puts towards her holiday gift buying fund. Take a minute or two to check out your local fair Exhibition Hall book and consider reconnecting with the traditions of Maine’s Agricultural Fairs.