STEPHENTOWN, N.Y. — Although the long, cool spring has delayed local produce in most areas of New York State, the first strawberries are appearing at farmers’ markets and farm stands. But not all strawberries are created equal. To ensure that you bring home the freshest, healthiest, most flavorful strawberries, follow these tips.
- Buy local. Strawberries that are shipped from across the country or over country borders are picked prior to ripening, to keep them from deteriorating quickly. But berries generally don’t ripen after picking, and pre-ripe berries are often mealy and flavorless. They also lack the full range of vitamins and nutrients that are present in just-picked local strawberries. To find fresh, healthful berries at a New York State berry farm in your area,visit our Find a Farm directory.
- Look for bright color and firm flesh. Select only strawberries that are shiny and firm, with a rich red color and caps and/or stems that are a vibrant green and fresh-looking. Avoid berries with wilted caps, or those that have white or green flesh around the cap or in the center of the berry.
- Remember that size and shape don’t equal quality. Supermarket berries are bred and selected for their uniform appearance, but their flavor and texture can’t compare to their sweet, juicy farm-stand cousins. So even if the berries have a funny shape or vary in size, as long as they’re ripe, they’ll still taste great!
- Plan a midmorning harvest. If you’re planning to visit a U-pick, or pick-your-own, berry farm, time your trip for midmorning, after the dew has evaporated but the berries are still cool to the touch. Harvest the berries by holding the fruit with one hand and using the thumb and index finger of the opposite hand to snap the stem. Avoid grabbing the fruit and pulling downward on the berry; this can damage it.
- Store at optimal temperatures. Once you get home, take the strawberries out of the carton and look for any that might be partially squashed or have the beginnings of mold growth; remove these berries to prevent additional mold from forming. Wash only what you need for the moment, and refrigerate the unwashed remainder.
Refrigerated berries will generally stay fresh for up to a week. So slice them and add them to granola or cereal, bake them into pies and muffins, use them in sweet-savory recipes, or enjoy snacking on them by the handful.
Founded in 1988, the New York State Berry Growers Association (NYSBGA) is a nonprofit educational association for berry growers, from large wholesale family farms to independent farm stands and small pick-your-own operations, across New York State. The NYSBGA promotes the growing and marketing of berries through the exchange of valuable information, including scientific research and farming techniques. We also represent growers in issues of labor, research, and technology, both academically and legislatively, and award research grants to study and address issues important to New York State berry growers.
To locate a farm in your area of New York that sells fresh, locally grown berries, visit our Find a Farm directory. Or bookmark our blog for nutritional information, recipes, and original serving ideas.
–New York State Berry Growers Association (NYSBGA)
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