We all have frigid memories of this past winter, but if you think you had it rough, just imagine you were a delicate strawberry seedling cooped up in the hot house just itching to sink your roots into the warm, fertile soil.
June is strawberry season in the Hudson Valley and there are a number of all-natural farms just a short ride away where you can pick your own. Greig Farm in Red Hook and Mead Orchards in Tivoli (both in Dutchess County) and Thompson-Finch Farm (certified organic) in Ancram (Columbia County) are just a few where my family and I have literally enjoyed the fruits of our labor.
If you are used to the cottony, supermarket offerings that are trucked in from other parts of the continent, you are in for a real surprise at just how juicy and luscious a locally grown, fragile, fresh strawberry can taste.
Chuck Mead, the third-generation to run his family’s farm, told me that his berries would be at least a week behind their normal June 1 debut due to cold spring weather (check their website for availability). In Tivoli since 1916, Mead Orchards produces around 9,000 pounds of berries in a good harvest. You can take a jaunt up the scenic Taconic State Parkway or stop by their stall at a local farmers’ market (Ossining, Pleasantville). One tip: You’d better arrive early, because they are usually the first items to go since they’re some of the sweetest around.
Mead grows a number of different varieties with names like Jewel, Amour, and All Star, each maturing at a slightly different time. That way he can extend his growing season to at least a month.
If you decide to visit, you can go jumbo with a tray that holds about a gallon and a half or, unless you’re planning to have a strawberry social or jar homemade jelly or jam, quarts do the trick.
Strawberry fields forever!