June is Strawberry Month, goes the saying!
As I walk by the local corner grocery store, I see baskets of fresh local strawberries. My mouth waters and I know it is summer! The cooler weather this Spring may have delayed the strawberry season a little bit, but fresh fragrant sweet local Ontario strawberries are already abundant in stores and at the numerous farmers' markets in Toronto - their peak season is June and July so hurry up and enjoy them!
This is the young strawberry plant that I planted in a pot on my balcony. I bought it from the Dufferin Grove Farmers' Market (open Thursdays, 3-7pm, close Dufferin subway). At home we enjoy observing how the plants grow and make our balcony a living green space. It is easy and inexpensive to grow vegetables and herbs in pots on your balcony. I find it relaxing, children are eager to help plant and water and later pick up herbs - our personal green connection in the busy concrete city.
If you are interested - you can easily find a farmers' market that is open somewhere in our city on any given day of the week.
- Check out this list of 10 things you can teach your kids when you take them to a farmers’ market (from Toronto4Kids.com).
- "Pick Your Own Strawberries", June 2013, in the local newsletter Toronto4Kids.
- And just in time during the upcoming Canada Day long weekend - you can drive up north of Toronto and join the festivities at the Stoufville Strawberry Festival.
Have you tried picking your own strawberries? It is a wonderful family activity and a cheaper way to get these wonderful aromatic fruits, that we have a limited time to eat locally only at the beginning of summer. Children will learn about farming, harvesting and will experience the joy and hard work of picking fresh berries.
Pickyourown.org: this is a site that helps you find a pick-your-own farm in the Greater Toronto Area, Ontario. Other websites that you can search for local farms in the GTA are: The Ontario Berry Growers Association and Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association.
- Select plump, firm, fully red berries, unripe berries will not ripen once picked.
- Freeze the strawberries that you can not use right away - simply wash the strawberries, drain them well from water, cut the green leaves off, and put them into a ziplock bag. One of the simplest ways to preserve fresh fruit to use later.
Not sure what to do with all these strawberries that you have just picked?
Learn how to make fresh strawberry foods, pies, jams, cakes! Here are some books on that (remember to get your free library card if you live, study or live in Toronto):
Canning and preserving books:
- Put 'em up! : a comprehensive home preserving guide for the creative cook, from drying and freezing to canning and pickling, 2010.
Some easy strawberry recipes:
I find strawberries delicious in any recipe - sprinkle them with sugar, add them to yogurt, make a strawberry pie, strawberry shortcake with whipped cream, strawberry tarts, strawberry smoothie, strawberry "anything"!
- Strawberry Shortcake recipe(from Food Network).
- Strawberry Freezer Jam recipe (from Betty Crocker).
- Strawberry Soup recipe (from Allrecipes).
- Strawberry Yogurt Panna Cotta recipe (from Canadian Living).
- Strawberry Banana Smoothie recipe (from Canadian Living).
6 tablespoons unsalted butter;
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour;
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder;
1/2 teaspoon table salt;
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar;
1 large egg;
1/2 cup milk;
1 teaspoon vanilla extract;
1 pound strawberries.
[Photo by: Smitten Kitchen.]