Out in the garden last night attacking the weeds that are growing like, well, weeds, I noticed the strawberry bed looking particularly abundant with fruit this year. Parting the serrated edges of the leaves, I was surprised at how large some of the berries already were. I lifted one large berry that already had half-ripened to a deep shade of red, admired its rich color. Berry red. Being a New York native, every year I have to remind myself that strawberries don’t come in June, they come in May. It’s May!
Strawberries are remarkably easy to grow on your own. Plant a few starts, and though you may not get many berries the first year, by the next year those plants will have multiplied tenfold, and you’ll be swimming in juicy red berries that you picked in your own backyard. Even better, those plants will continue to produce for at least three years before the bed needs to be resown.
Of course not everyone has the time nor the space to be a strawberry grower. Fortunately for us all there are several local u-pick farms that are ready or nearly ready to welcome you into their fields to load up on the delicious fruit. Farms in Rockingham County included Broadway Berries in Broadway, Hilberts Strawberry Farm, located west of Dayton, and Showalter’s Orchard and Greenhouse in Timberville. In Grottoes you’ll find Middle River Farms, which boasts an integrated pest management system should you be concerned about things like pesticides, and in Waynesboro is Troyer’s Nursery, if you’re in the mood to venture further south.
Strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie, strawberry and rhubarb crisp, strawberries dipped in chocolate, strawberries with cream and sugar, strawberries straight out of the field beneath the warm May sunshine, that sweet juice spilling across your tongue and down your throat . . . I can taste them already.
Remember that strawberry season is short and they go quickly, so be sure to call the farm you plan on visiting beforehand to make sure they are still holding u-pick hours. Though it hasn’t felt like summer yet, strawberries are a sure sign that summer days are just around the corner. Dig into the season!