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Keeping Up With Maury
Strawberry Time
by Maury Feren

Yes, I know that strawberry time is over. I mean local strawberry time. Those are the real strawberries; the varieties we used to know, but have forgotten. We have become so accustomed to the California berries, we seem surprised to find that local berries do not grow that large.

Here is how that happened. Many years ago we received strawberries from all over. We would start out early with the first shipments from Louisiana, then to Kentucky, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, and many other states finishing off in New York. All this time, the West Coast was beginning to ship their crops just delivering to the western states beginning with Denver.

Then our agricultural specialists began to tinker with many varieties taking the best out of all of these areas. Today, we have the most beautiful berries in the world, but somewhere along the way, we sacrificed flavor and taste for an attractive look.

Certainly you can't complain about those giant strawberries that look so gorgeous that we get most of the year. And if you have never enjoyed that unique sweetness and tartness, you will be satisfied with what has been your lot for all this time.

California is like a giant. Once it begins to grow a product, it takes it over completely. It's been able to do that because of its ability to grow two crops in a year, not just one. The combination of soil, sun, and land have made California number one in so many areas. We no longer get green onions from Louisiana.

It is a big potato state; tomatoes too, truck garden vegetables such as romaine lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, eggplant, and squash. When you look around, all of those shippers and growers that once served us nationwide are now victims of the giant agricultural business of the California crop.

For example, as a point of interest, I was once a major source of fresh green onions. They came mostly from Louisiana. They would be packed in large wooden crates. I know it doesn't sound like much, but we would sell four to five hundred dozen of green onions to the retail trade. Today, California is the only grower. They are shipped by rail under refrigeration. The Japanese growers dominate this scene from California. Note, I said a carload of green onions. Would you ever think that there was such a large market out there for the lovely green onion?

The same thing is true of the strawberry crop. California is now the major grower. A few states provide fair, locally grown strawberries in season. That's why I want to talk about our local strawberries. If you made it a point to stop at most any local grower that is harvesting their crops, you would have tasted some of the reddest, sweetest berries of the season. Try it next year!

I was lucky enough to have ridden out to Patterson's Farm in Chesterland. The greenery and beauty of the trees along the way is unsurpassed. Once you hit Gates Mills, that long hill facing the forest of trees is magnificent. I consider it to be the most beautiful wooded area of Cleveland, especially coming down the hill crossing Chagrin River Road. For even more fun, ride down along the River Road in either direction.

There are at least six or eight growers who offered "pick your own strawberries." That is a fun thing to do, but it is not my recommendation. Many farmers thrive on it. However, I must tell you when I looked at the beautiful strawberries that Patterson displayed, I couldn't walk away! They were so red, so shiny, just glistening and oh that berry smell! It just dominated the air around me. You will do yourself a favor to just ride out there next year and enjoy it.

Now here is the rub. Homegrown strawberries are not all the same. The soil varies from east to west. The variety too!

First of all, look for solid red, ripe color. There should be a fresh shine to them. Look for no black spots or decay. And here is a good point to remember. Refrigeration is a temporary measure. Use it wisely for it does take some of the taste out of strawberries.

To keep you berries fresh, use a plastic container. Layer your berries with a paper towel in between layers. You will see how effective that is. It also works well with grapes and cherries.

If some of you are lovers of apple dumplings, Patterson's Farms makes them fresh every day. No one does them as well. They do have wonderful apple fritters too, on the weekend only. All I can say about them is that they are delicious, in bold letters!

Of course, Patterson's apples are known throughout this area. They also offer the first pickings of the truck garden season. You are going to taste the difference! That is what they are noted for. For families, this is a fun trip.

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