A Columbia Mom’s Guide to Picking — and Eating — Strawberries

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A COLUMBIA MOMS guide to picking and eating strawberries

Oh my, how I love strawberries! Really, any kind of berry.

Good news is, the middle of April marks the start of strawberry season in the Midlands, and there will be more than enough fresh, red little gems to pick and gobble up! Living in the South means strawberries ripen earlier; and the weather is warm and sunny, so the circumstances are perfect for a little strawberry picking!

You’ve never been? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Here is all you need to know picking, storing and — yum — eating all that delicious fruit!

Columbia Area Pick-Your-Own Strawberry Farms

strawberries-660432_640
Picking strawberries locally is an activity the whole family can enjoy!

Cottle Strawberry Farm

2533 Trotter Road, Hopkins 29061; Phone: 803-695-1714

This location is the one we first visited when moving to Columbia. We really enjoyed it and highly recommend visiting, not only because of the kind service, but also because the farmers use natural growing practices, which means no harmful pesticides. Projected opening date is April 15. The farm is open for picking Monday-Saturday 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday noon-7 p.m.

Lever Farms

5057 South Carolina Highway 34, Pomaria 29126; Phone: 803-321-5952

The farm’s projected opening date for berry picking is April 15, but check their website or Facebook for updated info. The farm is open for picking Monday-Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. Pre-picked berries are available, along with strawberry preserves, syrup, salsa, dressing and cider.

James R. Sease Farms

3807 Augusta Highway, Gilbert 29054; Phone: 803-892-2111

This farm opens for picking today! Visit for pick-your-own or pre-picked berries Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m. or Saturday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Or visit one of their kiosks daily starting at 10 a.m. for pre-picked berries:

  • 861 Highway 378, Lexington, next to Publix and Zaxby’s
  • Four Oaks Farm, 4856 Augusta Road, Lexington
  • Wingard’s Nursery and Garden Center, 1403 N. Lake Drive, Lexington

Peaches ‘n’ Such

3771 South Carolina Highway 23, Monetta 29105; Phone: 803-685-5838

This location is a Southern-style restaurant, fruit and veggie stand where they also sell jams, jellies and more. They have a strawberry field, but visitors are asked to call ahead to arrange a time to pick.

Tips for Pick-Your-Own Success

Strawberry farms are sandy and dirty, and you are sure to be covered with fine dust by the end of your adventure. Rain boots or other closed-toed shoes work MUCH better than sandals or flip flops. (Ask me how I know this).

There is no shade on the field, so lather up with sunscreen so you aren’t as red as your berries when you are done picking. (Ask me how I know this, too.)

Keeping Your Berries Beautiful

Strawberries are super sensitive and they don’t like being hot or wet. After bringing them home, fill your sink with water and pour 1-2 cups vinegar in. Immerse the berries in the water-vinegar wash, and stir them carefully with your hands just enough to remove dirt. The vinegar will kill bacteria and mold, so the berries won’t go bad as fast. Pick the berries out of the water with a strainer and lay them on paper towels or a dishcloth to dry. Don’t skip this step! Moisture on berries will lead to mold.

When the berries are dry, pack them loosely in a plastic container, lined with a paper towel, and store them in the fridge. They usually keep for a week for me this way, but I don’t often have a problem of strawberries going bad with 3 kids around …

Let’s Cook!

After you’ve washed the berries, it’s time to figure out what to do with them — besides eating them plain, of course. Never fear, there are so many options! You could definitely Google recipes, but why not try one of these delicious creations that are already tested and approved?

I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

Flash Freeze!

When you preserve berries properly, you can enjoy that spring taste all year long.

  • Wash and hull the berries (cut off the little green stems with a knife or a berry huller).
  • Line baking sheets with foil or parchment paper and spread out strawberries in a single layer.
  • Transfer to freezer and once the berries are frozen, pack in labeled Ziplocs.

When you freeze fruit this way, the result is like a store-bought product: juicy berries that aren’t stuck together or smooshed!

Make Freezer Jam!

If you are already using your freezer, let’s fill ‘er up with even more strawberries! Make this freezer jam and you’ll please everybody.

No-Cook Freezer Jam


djwtwo / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups mashed fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries), room temperature
  • 1/8 cup lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 cup honey or 2 cup sugar (see note below if you use honey)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tsp pectin powder (you can find this in most grocery stores — I use Pomona Universal Pectin, which can be used with sweeteners other than sugar)
  • 4-12 tsp calcium water (included in the box of pectin powder – combine calcium powder with 1/2 cup cold water)

Directions:

  • Wash and hull the berries.
  • In a food processor or blender, puree berries until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Add honey or sugar and blend.
  • Boil the water, pour that in a blender, add the pectin powder and mix until well combined. Add this mixture to sweetened fruit puree.
  • Add calcium water, starting with 4tsp. It should start getting thicker, but keep adding calcium water until jam starts to gel.
  • Pour jam into washed out glass containers, preferably mason jars or other freezer safe jars, making sure to leave space for the jam to expand when frozen. I also found plastic, BPA-free freezer jars in Walmart or Target, where the canning accessories are.
  • Once you are done filling your jars, put your jam in the freezer to preserve it. That’s it!

Make a Smoothie!

Who doesn’t love a refreshing, fruit filled smoothie? It can double as a snack when you are short on time; just add some extra nutrients. For example, make it with unsweetened almond milk or canned coconut milk, and add in chia seeds, flax seeds or a spoonful of almond butter.

Wanna try a tasty green monster? Give this one a whirl! Don’t worry, nobody will taste the spinach.

(Recipe adapted from the Simple Green Smoothies website)

Berry Green Smoothie

A green smoothie does not have to be green!
Don`t I look delicious?

1 Serving (or 2 kid’s size servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup spinach
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ¾ cup blueberries
  • ¾ cup strawberries (I like using frozen berries to make my smoothie cold and creamy)
  • 1 banana
  • 2 tsp chia seeds (optional, for added nutrition)

Directions:

If you don’t have a high powered blender, like a Vitamix, blend up the liquids and the spinach first so your smoothie ends up, well, smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients, blend and enjoy.

Make a Salad!

In my opinion, a fruity salad like this one is the highlight of the day, especially when the day consists of changing diaper after diaper, wiping down mess after mess, and reading the same story a gazillion times. (I love being a mama nevertheless.)

Here’s what you need for lunch: (I don’t care to measure, but I provided some guidelines in case you do)

Bacon-Strawberry Salad


ChazWags / Foter / CC BY-ND

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups mixed greens, or spinach, or lettuce
  • 4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2-3 slices deli ham, chopped (optional, but good!)
  • 4 oz grilled chicken, chopped (this is optional too, but great for added protein and to use up leftovers)
  • 1 cup (or more!) strawberries, sliced
  • 1 hard boiled egg
  • a few slices of purple onion
  • 2-3 tbsp of feta cheese
  • 2 tbsp pecans or walnuts or slivered almonds
  • Dressing of choice — I recommend a poppy seed lemon or a balsamic vinaigrette dressing

Directions:

Prepare all the ingredients (this pretty much means chop, chop, chop), then assemble the salad by layering the ingredients in the order listed. Pour dressing over and devour!

(To make this a portable lunch for a working mama, grab a bigger sized mason jar and layer the ingredients in this order: dressing, meats, nuts, egg, onion, berries, cheese, greens. When you are ready to eat, dump it all on a plate, and voila, a perfectly assembled salad!)

Make a Dessert!

This pound cake is my mother-in-law’s traditional recipe and a huge favorite of the whole family. When my husband, Mr. Army Strong, was in Iraq, she even baked it in mason jars and shipped it over there! I always thought that was the sweetest thing ever.

Since I am now on a healing diet, I choose not to indulge, but I still remember how amazingly rich and moist this treat is.

Sour Cream Pound Cake with Strawberries


ralph and jenny / Foter / CC BY

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 3 c sugar
  • 3 c cake flour (I used all purpose whenever I made it for hubby)
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 sticks butter or margarine
  • 2 tbsp lemon extract
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt

Directions:

  • Leave the butter and eggs out overnight at room temperature. Take the sour cream out 2 hours ahead of baking, too.
  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees. After measuring, blend the flour, baking powder and baking soda and sift the mixture 3 times. Sift the sugar 3 times as well, keeping it separate. (I know this sounds like a lot, but it ensures the fluffiness of the end product)
  • Cream sugar with the butter in a mixer.
  • Mix in eggs, one at a time, waiting to blend in between.
  • Gradually add sifted flour and mix well.
  • Add sour cream and mix well.
  • Add lemon extract and salt and blend well.
  • Spray bundt pan with Baker’s Joy, or use butter/shortening and flour if you prefer.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 1.5 hrs, until nice golden on top and toothpick comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn it out on a wire rack.
  • Slice strawberries and sprinkle with powdered sugar if you like it sweeter. Slice cake and top with berries. Enjoy!

Now, go pick some strawberries, eat a ton and have a Berrylicious April!!

What’s your favorite way to eat strawberries? Share in the comments.

 

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Hilda Crowe is originally from Hungary, a small country in Europe, where she grew up to love God, cherish friends and family, cook good food and have a huge desire to make a difference. When on a 6 months long visit with friends in Charleston, SC, she met Donnie and she immediately knew there was something very special about this single dad, ex-military, laid-back country boy. What she didn`t know was that 2 years later she would be willing to pack it all up and make a cross-continental move to the US, to spend the rest of her life with the combo. Since then, in addition to Donnie`s little princess (Nicole,11), Hilda and her husband welcomed a little girl (Haley, 4) and a little boy (Dominick 1.5) who turned their lives completely upside down, in the best possible way. Hilda and her family recently relocated to the Columbia, SC area where she began to make new relationships and discover what the Midlands have to offer. Hilda keeps busy with raising her bilingual children, learning to navigate the challenges of step-parenting a tween and finding healing from depression-anxiety through diet and lifestyle changes. When not chasing after one of her little ones or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, she enjoys spending time with her hubby, reading good literature, running, getting outdoors and creating meal plans for special diets. Hilda is passionate about impacting others by sharing her story, her victories and struggles and pointing to the One who makes life worth living. You can follow her journey at www.intentionallyblended.com.

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