Strawberry Fields Forever
As far back as I can remember, every June my family would make our annual pilgrimage to Jones' Farm to pick bright red juicy strawberries. If we didn't leave with a heaping boxful then we didn't do our jobs. But as a kid I would always end up picking more for myself than for the box, eating every other berry and leaving with the tell-tale signs on my hands and face. I was just as guilty as the next kid, so actually I didn't feel that bad. Now as an adult I typically taste only one and try to keep myself from eating any more. I'm really just saving up for gorging on them in the privacy of my own home.
You really have to love strawberries to pick them yourself. After all that bending and picking, it's easy for a person to get tired. I must love them so much, because last week on a sunny yet breezy Monday morning, with the help of my mom, I picked 13 pounds of strawberries. But aren't strawberries easy to love? I don't think I know anyone who doesn't adore them. They're so sweet and mushy once you eat them. It's one of the most favorite flavors in ice cream and candy. Even lotions and some cosmetics are flavored with strawberries. That just shows you how extremely popular the flavor actually is.
I've always been curious about strawberries and why they are named straw-berries to begin with. It has to do with the way they're planted—in rows with straw underneath the bushes to slow the fruit rotting. Strawberries are unique in that the fruits are actually the tiny seeds on the outside. What we think of as the berry is just an airy pod that holds the tiny fruits. The strawberries that we enjoy today are mostly hybrids from wild European types, South American berries, and indigenous American ones. Some say strawberries have a slight pineapple taste or a red grape taste, but to me a strawberry is indescribably flavorful in its own right.
When picking strawberries, make sure to lift the leaves from the plant and set your sights on the most beautiful fruit that you can pick. Strawberries will not ripen after being picked, so choose the reddest ones. Pinch at the stem, and remove the berry with the leaves intact. They last longer that way. Store them in a cool, dry place, but eat them as fast as you can because they won't last longer than a few days. After that it's time to use them in a tart or jam. You can also freeze strawberries: simply wash and hull them, freeze on trays, and then add to a resealable plastic bag.
Jones' Family Farms has been growing strawberries for more than 40 years. Plantings were initially brought from California. Here in Connecticut, strawberries are in season from June into July. Typically the season lasts for about a month. This year the season arrived a few weeks early. And because of all the recent rain the strawberries are not as sweet, but are still highly enjoyable. (Call the hotline to find out which farm is offering strawberry picking on the day of your visit.) Strawberries are among the farm's most popular crops, but they also offer blueberries, which come late in the summer season. In October the farm has Halloween pumpkins. More recently the farm has added a winery. But their largest crop has always been Christmas trees.
Jones Family Farms
555 Walnut Tree Hill Road
Shelton, CT 06484
Pumpkin Seed Hill Farm
120 Beardsley Road
Shelton, CT 06484
Open daily, Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.