Who’s in the mood for something sweet? Southwest Florida’s waltz into spring perfectly coincides with peak strawberry season, which means heading to the local u-pick farm, loading up on some red gems and preparing a smorgasbord of berry-infused delight. Looking for the best place to get your strawberry fix, and some ideas on how to prepare your bounty? Look no further, for its nothing but strawberries on this post. Enjoy!
Why eat strawberries?
These sweet yet tart berries are the most popular berry in the Untied States, and Florida is one of the most prolific growers in the country, with an estimated annual yield of 250 million pounds. Tasty straight off the plant, muddled in cocktails, mixed in yogurt or added to a salad; strawberries truly are utilitarian. But not only are strawberries delicious, and the u-pick concept reduces the carbon footprint when compared to store-bought berries, and helps bolster the local economy while putting a face to the farmer growing your food, but strawberries are also good for you – in moderation. While being fat, saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol free, strawberries are also high in vitamin C, folate, potassium, dietary fiber and manganese—all good things. However, a standard serving of strawberries, 152 g (about one cup), is pretty high in sugar, 7g, equating to 49 calories. So, if you’re planning on blending up a smoothie or juice with some red berries, counter the sugar content with a healthy dose of leafy greens like kale or spinach—the flavor of the strawberries goes a long way.
So you’ve scored some delicious strawberries from the U-Pick farm, now what? Let us help the home cooking with this collection of strawberry-infused recipes.
Tips on Selecting
- Look for berries that are shiny, firm and bright red – these will be sweetest.
- The leafy caps should be fresh, green and intact – avoid berries with worn, brown leaf caps, these berries have seen their peak freshness already.
- Avoid shriveled, mushy or leaky berries. If you notice any small holes bored into the berries, let’em be – that’s a telltale sign that a little buggy has or is still eating its fill.
Where to Pick
Farmer Mike’s U-Pick has quickly become a springtime tradition in Bonita Springs. Ever since reopening in 2012, the fields have been going strong, not only offering a bounty of strawberries for pickers to pick, but a veritable hodgepodge of homegrown goodies too, including tomatoes, radishes, lettuce, squash, avocados, citrus, peppers, Brussels sprouts to name but a few of the produce options growing at any given time. And if you haven’t the time to grab your goods off the plant, Farmer Mike’s is at a number of farmers markets around town (SW Florida Markets LLC locations, Lions Club, Coconut Point Green Market, Lake Parks Farmers Market, Third Street South and the Farmers Market at The Promenade).
- Operating seven days a week (8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday), pickers have plenty of options to grab some locally grown produce. Currently, strawberries are $2 a pound.
- Farmer Mike’s U-Pick, 26049 Morton Ave., Bonita Springs, 34135, 239-498-4576
U-Pick farms are not just a great way to support local growers and agriculture, but is also a great way to spend time with the family while teaching the wee ones where food comes from—that’s a win, win in our book.
For some of the freshest strawberries and tomatoes in town, set your picking skills on The Farm in Estero. Run by farmers Dustin Blank and Scott McDaniel, The Farm operates two u-pick fields—strawberries and tomatoes—while also growing an array of veggies and fruits, harvested daily, and available in the farm’s produce stand. On any given day, based on availability, shoppers can find tomatoes (vintage select, heirlooms, grapes and cherry), zucchini, peppers in all shapes and sizes, lettuce and other leafy greens, squash, eggplant, and much more.
- Operating seven days a week (Monday-Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.).
- The Farm, 9050 Corkscrew Rd., Estero, 33928, 239-768-2767
Before you eat…
- Once you have picked your berries and brought them home, they will keep for one to three days in the refrigerator.
- As a rule, do not wash your berries until you are ready to eat them – they will get soggy and spoil if left wet.
- And it is always a good idea to thoroughly wash your berries before you eat them, even if grown organically (i.e., no pesticides)—there is plenty of handling, whether by other “u-pickers” or by processing personnel when store-bought. For even more peace of mind, use a fruit and vegetable wash like Fit Organic. Certified vegan and kosher, Fit is a 100 percent natural cleaner that removes 98 percent more pesticides, waxes, people-handling residue and other contaminants than using just water. And it completely rinses away with no aftertaste or smell, so all you’re left with is clean, fresh, healthy berries.