Early summer is strawberry fun time. With friends or family, set aside a forecasted clear day to celebrate the sweet, warm days of summer ahead. You’ll harvest berries, preserve them in various ways of your choice, then finish with a delicious strawberry pie.
Strawberry fun starts with the harvest: Find the closest strawberry u-pick (unless you're growing one yourself!). To find one near you, go to localharvest.org, call your local cooperative extension service, or look through print and Craigslist local ads. Find out the logistics of showing up with a group. When are their hours? Do they want a heads up if the group is of a certain size? What do u-pickers bring with them, what's the fee, what is the parking situation, etc.
Drive to the U-pick strawberry farm and fill your baskets. If kids are part of the group, they'll experience
what many rural kids get to experience: the wonders of fruit growing from soil and sunshine.
Set up a strawberry preserving fun factory: Once back home (or perhaps prepared ahead of time), set up a group factory for making strawberry treats for the future, such as frozen kabobs, strawberry preserves, or if children aren’t involved, the first steps of making strawberry wine.
For strawberry kabobs: Using frozen strawberry kabobs as the example here, set up the factory stations which include:
- The berry rinsing station where berries are placed in colanders under cold running water and drained.
- The de-coring station where the harder white core and any remains from stems are cut from the berries, but the berries remain whole. Any extra small berries can be tossed into a container to make the strawberry pie (below). Kids love this part when the safe metal hand-tool created just for this purpose is used. Otherwise, an adult can take this station with a sharp knife.
- Set up stations where clean drained berries are pushed onto kabob sticks (you may also want to use popsicle sticks – not as sharp and pointy, safer for younger children) and inserted into individual plastic freezer bags.
The strawberry pie baking station: After the kabobs are made and stored, set up a pie making station according to a favorite recipe. You’ll need a station for cleaning and slicing strawberries, mixing in sugar and other filling ingredients according to your recipe, and either making the pie shell or rolling out and fitting pie pans with a pre-made shell.
The finish of the strawberry fun day: After clean-up, you will have a freezer full of sweet treats the kids can grab like popsicles for the coming summer days, (and/or strawberry jam to last throughout the year or strawberry wine in the process of aging.) If this strawberry harvest day includes visitors too far away to transport frozen kabobs home, make sure you save some for their next visit.
Your group will be deliciously tired and contented after a good day’s
“work” which you can celebrate with just-out-of-the-oven strawberry pie
topped with vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries. (If you bake more than one pie, one can be
put into the freezer to remember summer in the months ahead).
This is a very quick version of the good ol’ days where we discovered that harvest today brings rewards tomorrow, while the entire outing, harvesting and celebration can take place during a single sunny June day. For rural families who already experience true harvests on an ongoing basis, a strawberry fun day can be a great activity to plan for when non-rural cousins or friends come to visit.