So now that you’ve made a delicious strawberry crumble from your fresh berries, what will you do with all the rest?
Make ‘em last the year!
Why is it important to do this? There are a couple of reasons…
Let’s face it, the first reason is the taste. There is nothing finer than a fully plumped, juicy, red strawberry fresh from the field.
However, unless you live in California (which I know some of you do – “hi!” – you’re exempt from this first reason), you’ve probably not seen real, fresh strawberries in your supermarket very often (if ever) as up to 80% of store-bought berries are imported from California. This means that your berry was picked weeks too early, injected with ethylene gas to finish the ripening process, and then shipped up to 3,000 miles to reach a Midwestern supermarket. This results in some relatively tasteless, carbon-guzzling strawberries for much of the country. Given how easy it is to preserve strawberries, perhaps it’s worth it to have tastier strawberries with a smaller carbon footprint throughout the year.
Another important reason is because getting strawberries locally, in-season allows you to know where your berries come from and to stock up on berries grown right. The truth is, strawberries are consistently ranked in the “dirty dozen”. These are the top 12 foods that you should buy organically if nothing else because of the high amount of pesticides and other chemical residues that remain on these foods even after washing (all those berry crevices can really trap them).
In some berries tested, close to 60 different types of chemicals were found on the conventional brands in the supermarket. Yuck.
If you know your farmer (or better yet, grow your own berries), you can ask if they use pesticides or fungicides on their crops and then stock up with the farmers who are growing without the use of chemicals (and remember, they might not be “certified organic” but still use all organic methods – you just need to ask).
Why are these chemicals so awful? Well, they’re meant to kill things. Let’s look at just one of the nearly 60 chemicals that is likely to be used – methyl iodide. This fumigant is associated with a number of concerns. For example, methyl iodide is:
- Toxic & reactive
- Known to be a carcinogen
- Associated with late-term miscarriage
- A contaminant of soil and groundwater
- Especially harmful to the workers who harvest these berries
In other words, conventional, imported berries are not worth the taste, environmental destruction, or health risks of eating them. We’ve gotten very used to having all fruits and vegetables in all seasons – but at what cost?
So, what is the easiest way to preserve berries? Just freezing them! It is surprisingly simple.
First, wash and de-hull your berries. Place them on a cookie sheet.
Pop the whole tray into the freezer and freeze the berries.
Bag them and freeze again.
That’s it! Freezing before bagging ensures that they don’t all turn into one giant clump in your freezer. These berries are then great to use in baking, desserts, or smoothies.
Other great ways to preserve strawberries are in a simple syrup or as strawberry jam. Unfortunately, my strawberry farmer lamented to me that 90% of their crop was destroyed this year by frost. I’m not sure if I’ll get back in time for more berries to make into jam this year, but we’ll see what there is left at the next market!
What’s your favorite way to preserve strawberries?