Story By Hilary Brady
So many things make spring sweet:the warm breeze and the new blooms, the goodbye to fleece andthe hello to flops. Ifr you’re looking for a fun activity that incorporates all of these beautiful spring things, try berry picking.
Slap on your sandals and head out to a local farm to welcome the warm sunshine and the season’s sweet offspring: strawberries.
Berry Fun Facts
The strawberry was originally called a “strewberry,” a term that many feel was coined becausethe fruit is found “strewn” throughout the host plant’s leaves. The name “strewberry” eventually evolved into “strawberry,” a fruit that became synonymous with wealth and perfection. Strawberries have a rich history with royalty worldwide. Thankfully, over time, the popularity of this berry spread, making the fruit available to both sovereigns and supermarket shoppers.
Strawberries, which boast an average of 200 seeds each, are not actually a true berry but rather the result of an enlarged plant stamen, or the reproductive organ of a flower. It’s no wonder that we instead prefer the simple term “berry.”
The low calorie fruit is fat free and full of essential nutrients including vitamins C and B6, potassium, folic acid and fiber. Even the medical community has found value in the power of the pretty fruit, using the berry to treat everything from sunburn to discolored teeth, fever to inflammation of the big toe (yes, really).
But more than for medicinal purposes, we enjoy eating this beautiful berry for its sweet flavor alone. And, lucky for us, there are several opportunities to savor these tasty treats straight from the farm right here in southern Brunswick County.
Brunswick Berry Farms
There are two farms in southern Brunsw ick Co unty that offer picking rights to fresh berries during growing season, typically March through May.
Indigo Farms in Calabash is a large farm that features fresh produce as well a bakery with homemade confections, a garden center, produce market and even a petting zoo. You can pluck their own berries straight from the field or purchase pre-picked berries from the market. Either way, don’t miss the fresh strawberry pies, strawberry shortcake or strawberry slushies made on site.
For a simpler strawberry experience, visit Holden Brothers Farm Market in Shallotte. Holden Brothers offers strawberry picking as well as packaged berry purchases.
If you prefer to pass on the sweet and wait for the tart, blueberry season will be upon us in mid-June. Owens Berry Farm in Shallotte is an exclusive blueberry farm that also offers the pick-your-own experience.
Making Your Experience Just Ripe
Here are a few tips to picking the perfect berry.
Size does matter: the smaller the berry, the more flavorful the fruit.
Look for plump, firm, red berries. Break the stem about a half-inch from the berry and handle the berry with care to avoid bruising.
Don’t pick an unripe berry expecting it to last longer. Once picked, berries do not continue to ripen.
Don’t over-pick. Fresh berries only last a few days at room or refrigerated temperatures. (Pick away, however, if you plan to bake or freeze your berries. We’ll get to that in a moment.)
When planning your berry-picking outing, try to go early in order to ensure the best selection.
If you are anything like me, you will get carried away in the strawberry field. You’ll leave with heaping buckets filled with strawberries. Your children’s faces will be stained red and their bellies stuffed to the brim with berries. You’ll stare at the approximately nine pounds of fresh strawberries remaining on your kitchen counter with not a clue about what to do with them.
Good news. Strawberries can be transformed into many succulent snacks, no matter your baking skill level.
Strawberries will remain fresh in the refrigerator for two to three days before they start to shrivel. That’s a few days of easy and healthy snacks: plain, dipped in yogurt or sliced as a topping for practically anything. So toss a few handfuls of berries in the fridge and allocate the rest for freezing or baking.
To freeze, wash the berry and cut off the hull. Pack the berries in a freezer-safe bag, eliminating as much air as possible. Your frozen berries will keep for several months, leading to delicious strawberry drinks like smoothies, margaritas and other summertime drinks. Frozen berries can also be blended with sugar and lemon juice to create a tastytopping for ice cream, waffles, pies or angel food cake.
If you have even one baking bone in your body, you have many additional options for your leftover fresh berries. Search the Internet’s cooking sites for recipes like strawberry breads, jams, tarts, pies, cakes. And, please, don’t forget the homemade strawberry ice cream.
Once you achieve berry-eating burnout, rest assured that strawberries have additional uses that go beyond the belly. Use old strawberries as paintball ammo. Add honey to smashed berries and give yourself a facial. You can obviously get berry creative.
Whether you choose to eat your strawberries or wear them, congratulate yourself for what you’ve done. Picking produce locally supports local farms. Strawberries from small farms often contain less pesticides and fungicides than those purchased in grocery chains, promoting a healthier diet for your family. And buying strawberries locally can offer sweet savings – money saving gurus estimate the going rate of locally picked strawberries at $1.00 per pound, versus grocery-bought berries selling for $4.50 per pound. (At the time of press, current local prices were not yet set.)
Scrumptious treats, healthy families and big savings. Strawberry picking in southern Brunswick County is a sweet way to step into spring.
1542 Hickman Road NW
Calabash, NC 28467
Holden Brothers Farm Market
5600 Ocean Hwy. West
Shallotte, NC 28470
Owens Berry Farm
1789 Southport Supply Road (Hwy 211)
Shallotte, NC 28470