Have you read the children’s book, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear?
The sneaky fox goes to great lengths to get just half of a juicy strawberry and I certainly don’t blame him. A fresh-picked berry is nature’s perfect treat. They are unique in taste and structure, being the only fruit to bear its seeds on the outside rather than in, and can be successfully used in sweet and savory dishes alike.
Strawberries grow reasonably well in Zone 8, especially if you plant varieties that are heat-tolerant. Two of my personal favorites are Earliglow and Eversweet, but the local nurseries almost always carry a selection of appropriate types. Plant them in a raised bed with plenty of loose soil and consider a location that will give them a little afternoon shade for a longer season.
Nothing beats heading out to pick a few for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. When our plants are bearing fruit, my kids can always be found outdoors during snack time. When you find yourself with an abundance of fruit from your backyard patch, or the local sale, try this freezer jam. Unlike cooked jams, it brings back that fresh taste of spring berries all year round. Try it over vanilla ice cream or toss a little over fresh berries for the perfect strawberry shortcake topping.
Strawberry Freezer Jam
6 cups finely chopped strawberries, pulsed in food processor
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cups sugar
½ cup instant pectin
¼ – ½ cup Ultra Sperse/Instant Clear Jel (a starch thickener that does not need to be heated)
Pulse strawberries in food processor until finely chopped. In large bowl, mix strawberries, pectin and sugar. Add Ultra Sperse until desired texture is reached. Freeze in zip-top bags or plastic containers labeled with the date.