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Strawberry fields now, not forever

Strawberry3_2Greg got his Father's Day wish, at least for an hour or so. (See Sunday's video post.) We took off and gave him the gift of peace and quiet. Unfortunately, he ended up injuring himself with a shepherd's hook, nearly poking his eye out, but leaving him instead with a black eye. Note to readers: Do not try to insert a shepherd's hook into the ground if there hasn't been any rain in 10 days.

And with the lack of rain, this year's strawberry season will be shorter, at least according to the people at Greg's U-Pick-It. Throughout the summer, I will write about some of our family's Buffalo summer traditions. We're not native Buffalonians, but we've adopted some seasonal activities that we do every year as we make the most of our glorious Buffalo summers.

Strawberry picking is one of our summer traditions -- I put it under the heading of "agritainment." It's an opportunity for our kids to get close to nature, and actually see food in its native state. The bonus is that for a few days our kids actually hit the "strive for five" produce consumption target, if you can count four servings of strawberries plus ketchup as a vegetable, as it was classified during the Reagan era. (Memo to Rep. Tom Reynolds: Please push for ketchup to be considered a vegetable again, as it would ease some of my maternal nutritional guilt and increase our odds of striving for five).

This year the strawberries are smaller than I remember, which means it takes longer to fill up a basket. The first 10 minutes of picking are fun. It's a wholesome activity, something you can feel good about. Until you get tired of stooping over, and the sun gets hot, and you start wondering what in the world you are going to do with 12 quarts of strawberries since you don't freeze or can. And why do they call it canning when you put the fruit in jars?

So Caroline and I limited ourselves to six quarts this year. So far we've eaten two. The others are quickly perishing in the refrigerator, where we had to resort to Tetris-like maneuvers to fit them on the shelves.

Fresh-picked strawberries taste nothing like the juiceless, flavorless, jumbo California ones you can buy the rest of the year. They are smaller, sweeter, and much juicier. And the fact that they are only available for a short time in June is a reminder to seize the day, and revel in life's simpler and fleeting pleasures.

Maybe we'll check out the Williamsville Strawberry Social on Wednesday at Island Park, another of our summer traditions. Perhaps we'll see you there ... we'll be the ones with the rashes on our arms from eating too many strawberries.


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