June 22, 2011

Soup to Nuts: Berried alive!

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Heidi Brennan of Sanford was picking strawberries with her children, Madison, 1, and Tyler, 4, at Lavigne's Strawberry Farm in Sanford on Tuesday, when Madison couldn't resist a sample.

Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Strawberry cheesecake lines the tables at last year's Strawberry Festival in South Berwick, as it will on Saturday.

Courtesy photo

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Where to pick with your pals

HERE'S A SAMPLING of farms in southern Maine where you can pick your own strawberries. It's always a good idea to call first, because farms start their pick-your-own operations at different times. Even after the fields open, sometimes they close for a day to let berries ripen.

CAPE ELIZABETH

Maxwell's Farm

Strawberry fields are off Two Lights Road

Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday

Strawberry hotline: 799-3383

William. H. Jordan Farm

21 Wells Road

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily

Strawberry hotline: 767-2740

Alewives Brook Farm

83 Old Ocean House Road, Route 77

Hours: 9 a.m. until sunset, usually around 7 or 7:30 p.m.

Strawberry hotline: 799-7743

GORHAM

Ahlquist Farm Stand

20 Small Pond Road

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday

Strawberry hotline: 839-4080

LIMINGTON

Doles Orchard

187 Doles Ridge Road

Hours: 6 a.m. to noon and 5 to 8 p.m. daily, except when closed to ripen

Strawberry hotline: 793-4409

NEW GLOUCESTER

Pineland Farms/Gillespie Farms Division

752 Mayall Road

Hours: Expects to open Thursday; call for hours. Senior discount on Wednesdays for pickers ages 62 and older.

Strawberry hotline: 657-2877

NORTH BERWICK

Riverside Farm Stand and Greenhouse

Five miles north of South Berwick on Route 4

Hours: 8 a.m. to noon and 3 to 6 p.m. daily

Strawberry hotline: 676-2648

SANFORD

Lavigne Strawberry Farm

158 Whichers Mill Road

Hours: 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Strawberry hotline: 324-5497

WELLS

Spiller Farm

85 Spiller Farm Lane

Hours: Weather and picking conditions dictate the hours. Call ahead.

Strawberry hotline: 985-2575

STRAWBERRY JAMMIN'

WHAT TO DO with all those strawberries?

Why not make some homemade strawberry jam? The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is holding its series of "Preserving the Harvest" workshops again this summer. The first one will be this Tuesday (see details below). For informations on other workshops covering everything from pickling to making salsa, go to: umaine.edu/food-health/food-preservation/hands-on-workshops

WHAT: "Preserving the Harvest" workshop

WHEN: 1 to 4 p.m. and 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday

TOPIC: "Hot Water Bath Canning and Freezing: Low-Sugar Jams & Jellies"

WHERE: UMaine Regional Learning Center, 75 Clearwater Drive, Suite 104, Falmouth

COST: $10 (scholarships are available)

INFO: 781-6099; or email Lois Elwell at lois.elwell@maine.edu

Strawberry festivals most often serve strawberry shortcake, of course, but they are also good places to try something a little different. At the Third Annual Cape Farm Alliance Strawberry Festival in Cape Elizabeth, strawberry pizza, strawberry cookies and strawberry marshmallows will be on the menu.

Penny Jordan's favorite dish during strawberry season is a salad made with baby spinach, strawberries, goat cheese and balsamic vinegar.

"It's like I died and went to heaven," she said. "That, to me, is like summer. It's so light and flavorful."

If you want to pick your own, it looks as if there will be plenty of opportunities this year. Handley said most of the growers he's talked to from Augusta south are aiming to open up this weekend.

But it's always a good idea to call first, because small changes in the weather can make a big difference in how fast berries ripen in different parts of the state. Plus, once a farm is picked out, sometimes they'll close a day or two to allow more berries to ripen.

The bottom line? When it comes to picking strawberries, the telephone is your friend.

EAT FAST

Once you pick your berries, how do you make this luscious taste of summer last as long as possible?

Maine strawberries are not like California berries, which last much longer after picking, notes Bill Bamford.

"My first recommendation is to eat them just as soon as you can," he said. "I personally wouldn't want to hold onto them more than 24 hours."

Handley said most strawberries will keep one to three days out on the counter. They'll keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, "but generally what I'd recommend is you don't stack them too deep."

"Put them in a shallow container, and then put at least one wrap of plastic over them," Handley said. "This way the condensation won't get on them, and they won't dehydrate. That's typically what happens in the fridge – the water tends to come out of them a little bit."

Wash the berries before you eat them, but don't wash them before you put them in the refrigerator, or they'll rot.

If you want to freeze your berries, lay them out on a cookie sheet and freeze them individually before transferring them to a freezer bag. That way you won't have a big frozen clump to thaw out when all you want is a handful of berries for your smoothie.

Happy picking!

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: mgoad@pressherald.com

Follow her on Twitter at: Twitter.com/MeredithGoad

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