Real Food

Last day of the season strawberries from Schartner Farm, No. Conway, NH.

Two winters ago I attended a University of New Hampshire-Extension course on how to plant and tend an apple orchard.  The agronomist  giving the lecture happened to get sidetracked and started talking about strawberries.

“There’s nothing like a New Hampshire strawberry fresh-picked  from the field!” he declared.  “Especially when you buy that tasteless thing they call a “strawberry” from California at the supermarket,” he added with disdain.

I don’t know why, but his comment stuck with me.  I just  had to get my hands on a New Hampshire strawberry, but the season was short and the timing was never right – – until this year.  It turns out that just over the border is one of New Hampshire’s largest strawberry farms, and due to heavy rains in June, the strawberries, according to our local newspaper,  were bigger than usual.  Picking started on June 18, but I couldn’t make it there until July 6, which, as it turns out, was the very last day of this year’s harvest.

The best berries had already been picked, and what few remained were small and somewhat overripe.  But the air was filled with the sweet smell of strawberries, which made the quest irresistible.  True, they weren’t as pretty as the large California-grown berries.  They were almost completely round in shape, and the biggest one was no larger than a nickel.  But they were so sweet – – juicy, dripping-off-your-chin sweet!  They tasted as sweet as high quality strawberry preserves, but without added sugar.

Now I understand why the agronomist waxed poetic about New Hampshire strawberries.  I hope to be back in the fields next year, but hopefully I’ll catch the harvest a little earlier in the season.

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