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
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.
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.
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
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 …
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.
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.
- 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)
- 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
1 Serving (or 2 kid’s size servings)
- 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)
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)
- 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
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
- 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
- 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.