through the cloud slip, strawberries

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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Things got a bit raucous after that.

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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.

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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.

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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.

2. Strawberry jam, like this one from Serious Eats or this one from Food in Jars.

3. Strawberry-Infused Vodka, I like the recipe from Boulder Locavore.

4. Strawberry sauce (for waffles, pancakes, ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal, pound cake). Here’s a classic sauce from Bon Appetit and another spice one from My New Roots.

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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?

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Comments

  1. Ahahaha! Hilarious, that poor kid! I too have felt, many times, like crashing on the ground, and I figure if you’ve gotta crash, you might as well do it in a strawberry field. Looks like a lovely afternoon.

    • ArtandLemons says:

      Shanna, I couldn’t believe L stuck it out for so long. He was fueled by berries and an afternoon lying in a strawberry field is absolutely a good thing!

  2. What a trooper! This year I picked about 50 pounds. I froze some (just as you mentioned) and made preserves. My new favorite way to enjoy strawberries is slow roasting them.

    http://fiercelyfresh.com/2012/06/01/oatmeal-pancakes-with-roasted-strawberries/

    • ArtandLemons says:

      Elizabeth, Wow. 50 pounds. That’s something. Can’t wait to try your slow roasting method. Thanks for sharing the link.

  3. He is too cute! I haven’t been to a pick your own strawberry farm out here in Colorado- usually get my berries at the farmer’s market. Looks like fun though. My husband loves strawberry jam, plain and simple.

    • ArtandLemons says:

      Jess, Love strawberry jam too and this is the first year I’m making my own. Look forward to making a few things from your strawberry round up as well.

  4. Strawberry picking is great! A wonderful activity.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  5. Explosive and sweet in a single breath… you are talking about teenage daughters here! Lovely account.

  6. That picture of him lying in the row is adorable – and such a familiar sight. My girl would lie down in the middle of *anything* when she was tired and done, even in the middle of a music lesson. And the singing, yes, the singing. Let it never end!

    • ArtandLemons says:

      Rebecca, Yes, that’s my favorite photo too and I like that about kids—total honest expression. I agree with the singing!

  7. Gorgeous photos, I love fresh strawberries! :)

  8. I kept it simple this year and did strawberry preserves and some syrups. I can absolutely relate to just wanting to lay down in the middle of the strawberry field!

    • ArtandLemons says:

      Autumn, I need to make syrup and strawberry preserves is always a must stock! I wanted to lay down in the field too, although I probably would have squished the berries since the rows were pretty narrow…

  9. Beautiful photos! I’ve always wanted to go berry picking. Foe some reason I make it to apple picking every year but always procrastinate during berry season.

    • ArtandLemons says:

      Thanks, Jen. We usually procrastinate on picking strawberries as well and seem to make time for blueberries, peaches, and apples. Glad to add strawberries to the list this year! So good straight from the plant.

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