Yesterday, Luke and I drove to North Hadley to pick strawberries. We left the house later than I hoped and by the time we parked next to the strawberry field, it was a little before 1 p.m., a.k.a. nap time. Naps remain an important fixture in our daily routine since Luke gets up around 5:30 a.m. regardless of when he goes to bed. At four, he can be explosive and sweet in a single breath.
We were out for adventure so I ignored the motherly pull in my stomach. Stay in the car and drive him around until he fell asleep, my mom voice said. Who was I kidding? This was our first time strawberry picking and we were both terribly excited to get to work.
The sky was scattered with white cut-out clouds, perky with scalloped edges, that let narrow slips of light into the field. Luke jumped out of the car and ran to the field with a quart-size basket. I followed down the narrow row carrying my camera, water bottle, a cardboard tray with seven more baskets and high hopes.
He chased after one strawberry then another.
“Pick the dark red shiny berries with green tops,” I said as he plucked a white then a small red berry from a plant. For every berry dropped in the basket, Luke popped two in his mouth. He continued. Drop one, pop two. Across and down the rows in a tired berry stupor.
“You look like you’re ready to go,” I said.
“No, mama. Let’s pick some more.” He chattered away pointing out each strawberry that made it to his basket and I nodded and told him each one was perfect. An hour later, Luke stumbled across a row of plants and fell into a full basket somehow squishing the berries on top.
Things got a bit raucous after that.
Old McDonald went from a quiet song to a piercing shout. It was time to call it quits.
“Let’s finish up and pay for the berries,” I said.
When I looked over, he lay face down in the row. I put the strawberry box and water down and helped him up. He leaned over and grabbed a few berries for the walk to the stand where we paid for eight quarts and then returned to the car, bedraggled and strung out.
On the drive home, the singing escalated into rampant silliness before he dove into the quesadilla, tomatoes, and cucumbers I packed for his lunch, eating some, playing with other, water squirting and burbling in the back seat. The restlessness built to a crescendo and then fell into absolute quiet.
I turned to check on Luke who slumped into the chair, fast asleep.
During those rough but beautiful moments, I’m reminded to belt out whatever song is in my head as if I were a total rock star singing in the middle of a strawberry field, to eat more than my fill of strawberries, and to live without any regrets.
Four ways to preserve fresh strawberries, make:
1. Frozen strawberries (for smoothies, sorbet, ice cream, sauces). Clean and hull the berries then spread them out on a jelly roll pan, so they don’t touch. Put the pan into the freezer until the berries are solid then transfer the frozen berries into a bag, and return to the freezer where they can be stored up to 6 months.
3. Strawberry-Infused Vodka, I like the recipe from Boulder Locavore.
What about you? Do you pick your own strawberries or stock up at the markets and farms? How do you preserve or use fresh strawberries?