Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Don’t Blink or You’ll Miss the 2012 Strawberry Season

As I reported at the May GCGC meeting, the strawberries at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden began ripening before Mother’s Day. Like everything else this year in Central Ohio, the strawberries seem to be coming two weeks early this year after our extremely warm (even hot) Spring. So, I realized that I had better get a move on or I would miss fresh strawberries this year if I wait (as I usually do) to the first or second weekend in June. I don’t think the berries will be around that long this year. (I saw lots of ripe berries and only a few flowers and even fewer white berries).

Here’s an update of this year’s strawberry pickings (since the neighborhood kids eat all of the strawberries at the SACG before we can get to them):

a. Hann Farms 4600 Lockbourne Road has u-pick strawberries this year at $1.59/pound (a nine cent increase over last year). This is the closest u-pick farm to Bexley and your least expensive option by far, but the trip there is a little tricky (through an industrial district in Obetz, etc.). You can pick 10-6 Monday through Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday. You must pay with cash or check. Call 491-0812 for more information.

b. Schact Farms, 5950 Shannon Road in Canal Winchester, $2/pound (a penny more than last year). This is the next closest to Bexley and is pretty easy to find. They had 15 rows of strawberries (that are several football fields long). They are a lot more organized this year; the rows are numbered and the staff can tell you in advance where the best berries are. They even had a sign explaining picking etiquette, picking tips and storage points. (Later in the year, they also have an extensive pumpkin patch and tomato u-pick operation). They accept cash, credit cards and WIC. They are open 9-6:30, but are closed on Sundays. Call 833-1932 for more information and to ensure that the ripe berries were not all picked the prior day.

c. Jacquenmin Farm, (between Plain City and Dublin), $2/pound (a dime increase over last year). I visited here several years ago with my nieces and it is very quaint and very close to Dublin and Sports Ohio. They have a nice system of having you leave a flag where you left off so that the next person knows where to start picking in their three acre strawberry patch. They have big plans this year for strawberry season. If you call to schedule in advance, they will entertain organized groups of children (or 10 or more). The strawberry field trip costs $4 per child and includes 1 quart of strawberries (picked by the children, of course), an educational coloring book about berries, and an ice cold slushee to cool down with after the picking is done. They are open weekdays 8-5 (but stay open late until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays) and Sundays 1-4 p.m. Call 873-5725 for more information.

d. Doran Farms, 5462 Babbitt Rd. New Albany, $1.79/pound (a dime increase over last year). I've never been there, but have heard good things about it. They opened on Saturday and will be open from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day until the strawberries are gone (with temporary suspensions while the ripe strawberries catch up with the pickers). Call 855-3885 for more information.

e. Circle S Farm, 9015 London-Groveport Rd west of Grove City. They will not be opening for u-pick for another few days (at least) and reported the recent cold evenings had delayed their strawberry crop. I went here a few years ago with my oldest niece and it's a nice, large farm, but is way, way out in the country. They will not provide information up front about pricing (which I find extremely annoying, and so do not recommend that you drive so far out without knowing this in advance). They say they will entertain groups and classes of children if you call in advance. Good luck with that.

While you can get strawberries for $2/pound at Kroger’s without a lot of bending, driving, sweating or walking, they aren’t as fresh or ripe or flavorful as the ones you pick yourself. Strawberries should be red all the way through, something you rarely find at a grocery store. Be sure to wear sunscreen and bug spray. I highly recommend going first thing in the morning because it is supposed to get very, very hot over the next 10 days.

I freeze most of my strawberries (to use in cocktails and smoothies), but also use some to make ice cream and jam. (The problem now, however, is that I’ve pretty much eliminated bread from my diet and have nothing to spread the jam on . . . . ). I think I ate a pound of strawberries yesterday with short cake and whipped cream. So much for that low-carb diet . . . . .   What we do for our art:)

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