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Strawberries abound at the farmers market: What to do with this tasty fruit

If you’re lucky enough to have a farmers market nearby, you know the pleasure of finding locally grown and harvested fresh fruits and vegetables. Perfect for whipping up delicious salads, side dishes, and desserts, a bounty of fresh produce has to be one of the best parts of warmer weather — and strawberries are one of the very best farm stand treats.

Few fruits compare with the juicy, sweet taste of a ripe, red strawberry. Sliced and added to salads, blended into smoothies, as part of a homemade dessert, or picked fresh and eaten straight from the plant, strawberries are versatile, healthy, and delicious. Why settle for grocery store strawberries when you can have locally grown and freshly picked strawberries instead? After all, the best part about the farmers market is the freshness. Here’s why you should pick up a few extra strawberries this weekend.

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Here’s the scoop on strawberries

In the United States, strawberry season is practically all year long, although not in every region at the same time. Strawberries are in season somewhere in the U.S. in every month but December. The three states that are the main growers of strawberries are Florida, where winter strawberries grow from November until April; Texas, which has a shorter season of three months (February through April); and California, where the growing season runs from February to November. If you’re looking to grab locally grown strawberries, this chart will help you determine when you’ll find them in season at a farm stand near you. 

Strawberries are not just sweet and tasty—they’re good for you, too. Strawberries are packed with vitamins and fiber, and they have high antioxidant levels. They are sodium-free, fat-free, and cholesterol-free, and they’re low in calories. In addition, they can help protect your heart, lower your blood pressure, increase good HDL cholesterol levels, and possibly even guard against cancer.

To pick the best strawberries, look for berries that have:

  • Bright red color
  • A natural shine
  • Fresh green caps

To preserve freshness, refrigerate strawberries and keep them dry until just before serving, then rinse them under cold water, keeping the green stems in place. 

Strawberries are one of the most versatile fruits, able to go from breakfast smoothies to lunchtime yogurt parfaits, and from dinner salads to glorious desserts.  

Make strawberry jam like a pro

If you got a little carried away at the farmers market and perhaps bought more strawberries than your family can handle, or if you’ve always wanted to try making homemade jam, you will be thrilled to know that making strawberry jam is easy and produces amazing results. You can find plenty of strawberry jam recipes on the internet, but there are always a few questions people have:

Is strawberry jam good for you?

Although most jam recipes contain a significant amount of added sugar, making jam at home will ensure that you are using only the finest, freshest ingredients with no additives or preservatives. If you have an abundance of strawberries on hand (or any other berry, for that matter), homemade jam will help use up your surplus and make you a kitchen hero to your entire family.

Should you use pectin in your strawberry jam recipe?

While many jam recipes include pectin in the ingredients list, you can still make a delicious jam that’s perfect for spreading on toast, muffins, croissants, and more, without using pectin. Despite what you might have heard, there is no evidence to suggest that pectin will prolong the shelf life of your jam. Pectin is used to help the jam set more firmly, impacting the gelled consistency of your final product and making it a bit thicker than jams made without pectin. 

Tips for making strawberry jam

With these tips, you’ll get prize-winning strawberry jam:

  • Make sure your jars are sterilized. This should go without saying, but sometimes people forget this includes the jars, the lids, and the tongs that handle the hot jars.
  • Crushing or cutting is completely your choice. It all depends on if you want larger chunks or a smoother finish at the end. (If you’d like really smooth jam, get your blender or food processor involved.)
  • Stir in the same direction. This will reduce the amount of scum at the end of the process.

Since fruit is imported from around the world to your grocery store, you can always find strawberries in stock; however, the locally grown farmers market berries are a whole new level of deliciousness. Buy them when you can, and get creative with new and inventive ways to eat them because when it comes to farm stand berries, when the season is over, it’s over!

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