This spring may have been cooler than usual but it is still, after all, spring. My goal for May and early June was to stock up on three early-spring crops: Asparagus, rhubarb and strawberries. We’ve purchased and preserved more than 12 pounds of asparagus already. (Two or three pounds were consumed right away!) We sampled some tasty rhubarb, however, I discovered that my family is not as fond as I am soLocal Strawberries I opted not to preserve any. And now *drumroll* it’s time to pick strawberries!
We do have strawberries here at Arcadia Farms, but the plants are still getting established and not bearing enough to supply our customers. (Next year!) I needed to find a pesticide-free source of strawberries both for our family’s preservation plans (jam, anyone?) and to pass along to our CSA members. Thanks to the Eat Local, SW Michigan! Yahoo group I was able to connect with Shirley at Patch & Pasture in Battle Creek (20975 Pine Lake Rd; 269-964-3942). In her own words she has “gobs” of naturally-raised berries. A quart is $3.50 pre-picked or $2.00 if you pick yourself. Patch & Pasture is open from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM Monday through Saturday. They also have naturally raised turkeys for sale (pre-order).
While there are several no-spray strawberry options around the area, of the few we looked into, Shirley had the best prices. Battle Creek seemed like a reasonable distance away for pesticide-free berries and such great prices and since I was going to be east of Kalamazoo for a birthday party on Friday anyway, I decided to make the trip. First of all, the drive was much longer than I was thinking… took me 40-some minutes to get there from Portage. Yikes. With the cost of gas these days, I figure the berries ended up costing me about $3.05 per quart. Not too bad for naturally-raised berries… (plus I was happy to give my money to a local farmer).
There are lots of ways to preserve strawberries. I plan to spend some time today making strawberry jam (for the first time!). We don’t eat very much jam or jelly at our house so my goal is to have twelve 8 oz jars of various jams created by the end of the summer. We eat jelly at the rate of about 1 jar a month (maybe longer) that should supply us for the year. (We still have 1 jar of violet jelly left from early this spring!) I’ll be sure to share my jam-making adventures later this week.
I’ve also frozen about two-and-a-half quarts of strawberries. It was super easy and I’ll be sharing about that tomorrow.
Other preservation options include canning strawberries in syrup (perhaps for pie making later) or dehydrating. Neither of those options work well for the food our family eats so I decided to skip them.
Honestly, I’m also wishing I had picked enough berries to make strawberry extract for future baking. Thankfully, my helper (thanks Owen!) and I did pick enough to have strawberry shortcake tonight!
Does anyone else know of sources for naturally-raised berries in the Kalamazoo/Portage area? Anyone have strawberries at home? I can’t wait until ours are abundant enough to supply our customers… and our family!