When it comes to strawberries, I have to say, I’m a bit of a snob. I go eleven months of every year strawberry free – I wait every year for one glorious month (or two if I’m lucky) of Ontario strawberry goodness.
Each year, I’m reminded what strawberries are supposed to taste like and remember why I should never be tempted to eat any other strawberries except those that line grocery store shelves for the months of June and July in Ontario.
Nothing can compare to the sweet, delicious, juicy strawberries that are grown by great farmers all across Ontario – they are packed with flavour! If you’ve never had one, you’ve never really had a strawberry at all.
Strawberries are aptly named because of the bed of straw that sits under the berry plant. The purpose? Insulation – to keep the plants warm throughout the winter, just like a warm cozy blanket! In Canada, snow often creates the same form of insulation, so straw may be put down in the spring instead.
As the plants grow and bear fruit, the straw also keeps the berries clean and prevents them from going bad in the field.
I have to say, this year was worth the eleven month wait. I have, like many, waited patiently for my first taste of strawberry bliss. Baskets in hand and sunscreen on skin my mom and I hopped on the tractor at Barrie Hill Farms for our annual bout of strawberry picking.
Picking your own strawberries is a great activity for family and friends and makes you think about the hard work that goes into getting a perfectly plump quart of strawberries from the field to the grocery store.
Plus, sitting in the fields, getting to stuff your face with strawberries that have been warmed by the sun couldn’t possibly be any more satisfying or delicious (don’t tell Farmer Morris).
For a list of places to pick-your-own strawberries in Ontario click here: Ontario Farm Visit or here Foodland Ontario. I also highly recommend Barrie Hill Farms the picking is amazing this year and this weekend they have their annual “Get Fresh” strawberry festival.
Strawberry Fields Forever
A good strawberry field will bear two to three years of solid fruit. At best, Morris Gervais, who owns and operates Barrie Hill Farms, has gotten four years from one field, but not all crops are so good!
The first year for a strawberry patch is solely to grow big and strong. Farmer Morris had his workers pick each flower (which would yield a berry) off his first year fields in order to let the plant focus on growing bigger and stronger to yield more fruit next year!
Eat Local – California Dreaming
The strawberry business in Ontario is up against big competition coming from California. No longer only available in the warm summer months of June and July, strawberries are in grocery stores all year long.
To me, California strawberries are synonymous with giant, tasteless sometimes still half green berries that travel close to 5,000 kilometres to get here and last far longer then they should. California strawberries are a big business and out-produce Ontario farmers in a big way. For more info on the life of a California strawberry and how it gets to Toronto, read this great Toronto Star article: A Strawberry’s Journey
But, don’t take my word for it – do a taste test – grocery stores currently have stacks of both Ontario and California strawberries – see which one tastes better and maybe you’ll become a bit of a snob too!
Just Eat It
As an ode to the goodness that are Ontario strawberries and to England playing in the world cup, I’ve made Eton Mess. Though this desert does look, indeed, like a mess – it’s delicious and a British classic! It’s a combination of sweet whipped cream, crispy and chewy meringues and fresh strawberries.
In addition to deserts, every year I make lots of strawberry jam. This is a great way to keep enjoying Ontario strawberries all year long! I’ll post pics and recipes shortly! Until then, go buy some Ontario strawberries and Go England!!!!!