Get The Most Out of Your Strawberries from Backyard Eats
When It’s Ready
- Look for fully red, plump strawberries: Ripe strawberries will have a bright red color and a firm texture.
- Check for a sweet aroma: A fragrant smell indicates that the strawberries are ripe and ready for picking.
- Examine the stem: If the stem is no longer green and the fruit easily separates from it, it is ready to be harvested.
- Harvest in the morning: Pick strawberries when the temperatures are cooler for better flavor and shelf life.
When It’s Too Late
- Overripe strawberries become mushy, develop mold, and may attract pests.
- Regularly check your plants to prevent overripening and ensure timely harvesting.
- Use scissors or garden shears to snip the stem above the fruit, leaving a small portion attached.
- Place the harvested strawberries gently in a shallow container, taking care not to crush them.
- Avoid exposing the harvested strawberries to direct sunlight for long periods.
Growing strawberries in your garden is a delightful and rewarding experience. Start by choosing a sunny location with well-drained soil. Prepare the soil by removing any weeds and adding organic matter, such as compost, to improve its fertility. Plant strawberry runners or seedlings in early spring or late summer, spacing them about 12 to 18 inches apart. Ensure the crowns are level with the soil surface. Water the plants thoroughly after planting and provide consistent moisture throughout the growing season. Mulch around the plants to suppress weeds and retain moisture. Remove any runners that form during the first year to encourage the plants to focus on fruit production. Fertilize with a balanced strawberry fertilizer according to package instructions. Protect the strawberries from pests, such as birds, by using netting or row covers. As the strawberries ripen, harvest them when they are fully red and enjoy the juicy, sweet fruits of your labor.
Fresh Storage: Place berries in a breathable container lined with paper towels in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Long-Term Storage: Freeze the fruit in a single layer on a baking sheet. Transfer it to a freezer-safe container for up to six months.
Cooking With Strawberries
- Strawberry Shortcake: Layer fresh sliced strawberries onto sweet biscuits or sponge cake, then top with whipped cream or ice cream for a classic and delicious dessert.
- Strawberry Smoothie: Blend fresh strawberries with yogurt, milk, or a dairy-free alternative, along with a sweetener of your choice. This refreshing and nutritious smoothie is perfect for a quick breakfast or snack.
- Strawberry Salad: Combine sliced strawberries with mixed greens, toasted nuts, crumbled cheese (such as feta or goat cheese), and a light vinaigrette dressing. The strawberries add a burst of sweetness to the salad.
- Strawberry Jam: Cook fresh strawberries with sugar and lemon juice until they break down and form a thick, luscious jam. Enjoy the homemade jam on toast, pastries, or as a filling for cakes and cookies.
- Strawberry Salsa: Dice strawberries and mix them with chopped red onion, jalapeño, cilantro, lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Serve the vibrant strawberry salsa with tortilla chips or as a topping for grilled meats and seafood.
- Strawberry Sauce: Blend or puree strawberries with a bit of sugar or honey for a sweet sauce. Drizzle it over pancakes, waffles, ice cream, or desserts for a delightful finishing touch.
- Strawberry Cobbler: Layer fresh strawberries in a baking dish and top them with a sweet biscuit dough. Bake until the strawberries are bubbling and the biscuit topping is golden and cooked through. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.