Area you-pick farms just starting to open for the season
Are we there yet? Are we there yet? If the only Facebook pages you ever visited were for pick-your-own strawberry farms, you’d swear that social media was run entirely by 8-year-olds sitting in the back of a station wagon. Every post is a variation on a single theme: Are you open yet? When will you open? Now? Are you open now?Read more
When it comes to strawberry season, I do not mess around. I get ‘em while the getting’s good.
It’s part of the joy, and sorrow, that comes with eating seasonal, local foods. When local strawberries are in season (in spring, as nature intended) they are glorious. When they’re gone, you just have to wait until next year. (If I’m ever tempted to fall off the seasonal wagon, one taste of a bland grocery store strawberry puts me right back on it.)
Why are local berries worth the wait? Farmers who don’t have to worry about shipability and shelf life are free to select plants that produce the most flavorful, satisfying berries. Take one bite of a berry from your closest farmers market, and I bet you’ll be hooked, too.
So, right now, when strawberries are reaching the peak of their brief season, I operate in hoarder mode. I buy them at farmers markets. I pick gallon after gallon at area you-pick farms. I relish every berry in my weekly CSA pickup. I even have about 50 plants of my own crammed into my tiny backyard.
What do we do with all those berries? Gorge ourselves by the handful, mostly. But I also freeze a bunch for year-round smoothies, serve fresh strawberry pies at every possible occasion, and make bucketloads of jam. You can’t have too much strawberry jam.
Which is why I suggest that you try making a batch yourself. Jam is very simple to prepare, even if you decide to can it for long-term storage. If you plan to store the jam in your fridge and eat it within the next month, you can skip the canning process altogether.
Jam-makers generally fall into two camps: Those who use packaged pectin and those who don’t. Being a middle child, I prefer to diplomatically straddle the fence. I love the bright color and flavor of jams made with pectin, and I appreciate their short cooking times, too. But next winter, when I’m really pining for a strawberry fix, I’ll love the intense complexity of a traditional no-pectin jam.
So, I make a few batches of each. If you’re new to canning, I suggest you start with a pectin recipe, like this one for Strawberry-Mango Preserves or spicy Strawberry-Serrano Jam. If you own a candy thermometer, give Ina Garten’s recipe for Easy Strawberry Jam a try. Jams are much more forgiving than actual candy … they may just turn out a little runnier or a little firmer than you might have preferred. That’s OK; just adjust the recipe next time. It will still taste great.
This afternoon, I plan to finish off my third gallon of you-pick strawberries with a batch of strawberry-ginger jam. Then it will be time to pick more berries.
Think I’m a bit obsessive? You should see me during tomato season.Read more
When Peachtree Road Farmers Market opens for the season on April 14, Cory Mosser will be ready with a one-two sales punch: asparagus and strawberries.
At Burge Organic Farm in Mansfield, both harvests came early this year, so Mosser is itching for market season to begin. “We’re bringing our A-game this year,” he says.
That’s good news, because consumers’ appetite for the two crops seems bottomless. Last year, Mosser regularly sold out. By the time his two spring superstars wind down this June, Mosser expects to have sold literally tons of product. Each of the farm’s 4,000 strawberry plants should yield about a pound of fruit. And Burge has one of the biggest asparagus patches around: about 1/4 acre. With the youngest plants turning three, this year’s harvest should approach peak productivity.
Each crop brings its own challenges. Strawberries must be planted annually under sheets of plastic, and asparagus—a rare perennial vegetable—require endless hours of weeding, especially when raised organically. So even though the retail price is relatively pricey—$5 for a pint of berries or a ¾-pound bunch of asparagus—these high-maintenance delicacies not only sell themselves, but they also sell other produce.
Next weekend, Mosser plans to arrive in Buckhead with about 100 pints of berries and 100 bunches of asparagus—along with ample supplies of spring onions, sweet salad turnips, beets, carrots, radishes, arugula, kale and cabbage.
“If you’re going to come over to my stand and buy a bunch of asparagus and some strawberries, you’re also going to buy some lettuce and arugula,” he says. “It really gets us off to a great start.”
Markets open now: Decatur, Douglasville Main Street, Emory, Marietta Square, Morningside, Peachtree CityRead more
Strawberry season is currently upon us here in Georgia, so Slow Food Atlanta and its student chapter at Le Cordon Bleu-Atlanta are hosting a strawberry celebration at the Morningside Farmers Market this Saturday. There will be plenty of opportunities to sample the super-sweet local strawberries that put those overpriced packages of Driscoll’s to shame. Slow Food volunteers will be serving up strawberry shortcakes made with local berries and local cream from Sparkman’s Dairy. The shortcakes cost $5 for what I’m told is a generous portion, and proceeds go to the Morningside Market and these local chapters of the international Slow Food organization. (Full disclosure: I’m a student at LCB-Atlanta, but not involved with planning this event).Read more