Indiana is crazy at this time of year with berry picking. A popular tradition in families, especially with young children is to load up the troops and head to the "U-pick" strawberry farms. Then it's strawberry shortcake, bowls of berries and little red fingerprints everywhere.
In addition to writing and cooking, I happen to be the person in charge of the Hamilton County "Strawberry Project" for 4-H. This is a county project (meaning it doesn't go all the way to the state fair) that is loads of fun. My younger son, Malcolm has participated for many years and is at work again this year on a beautiful berry jar.
When he was about 4, my garden was half the size it is now, but I allowed each of my kiddos to choose a bed to call their own. We planted each with whatever they wanted and the littlest guy said, "Strawberries." Our obsession was born.
Strawberries can easily be grown in pots, but if you can devote a little patch of ground, they will come back each year, producing a bit more annually for about 5 years. In order to grow the biggest and most flavorful berries, give plants plenty of rich, fertilized soil. They also like soft soil, so if yours is dense or filled with clay, be sure to mix some compost into the bed before planting. Oh, and make certain you've chosen a sunny spot. Strawberries love the warmth.
There obviously are TONS of places to buy starter plants where you live, but as always, I encourage you to consider seeking out seeds of interesting varieties. I'd really suggest you take a minute to google "Alpine Strawberries." They tend to be smallish but they are incredibly sweet and really productive.
Some great seed sources:
Pro Tip: You might've noticed in the photo above that my berries are planted with borage and chives. These are companion plants. They work symbiotically to replace vitamins that the others deplete and they also work against pests for one another. Sprinkle some seeds in your berry patch and see what you think.
A fine breakfast:
fresh berries, tart greek yogurt and
a little honey from our hives.
Sweetie's Strawberry Freezer jelly
This is a delicious and easy jam that was present every summer of my childhood. When Sweetie (my mom!) makes it now, it is allocated and sometimes hidden from the children!
What You Need
Disclaimer! According to Sweetie, her big hit is simply the recipe on the Sure-Jell pectin box. It's so good, I'm sharing it anyway. Thanks, Sure-Jell!
Elizabeth Morse cooks professionally, is an Advanced Master Gardener and lover of all things local.