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Strawberry picking a fun and delicious pastime

People of all ages enjoy strawberry picking. Here, Fredna Gibson shares her annual tradition with her granddaughter, Caroline. (Special photo)

People of all ages enjoy strawberry picking. Here, Fredna Gibson shares her annual tradition with her granddaughter, Caroline. (Special photo)

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Several area farms offer opportunities to pick your own strawberries. (Special photo)

With the beautiful sights and fragrant smells of spring comes another annual tradition: Berry picking. In season now are strawberries — those vibrantly-red, delightfully-sweet berries that grow in plentiful amounts at area farms.

Strawberry picking is an event that everyone in the family can enjoy, and create good memories while doing so.

We’ve offered a few tips for berry-picking excursions, and some delicious recipes to try at home.

Whether you eat them fresh off the vine, as a spread or in a dish, the variety of ways that strawberries can be used in endless. That’s a pretty tasty way to spend an afternoon.

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(Special photo)

How to Pick Strawberries

Grasp the stem just above the berry between the forefinger and the thumbnail and pull with a slight twisting motion.

With the stem broken about one-half inch from the berry, allow it to roll into the palm of your hand. Carefully place — don’t throw — the fruit into your containers.

Don’t overfill your containers or try to pack the berries down.

General Picking Tips

When picking strawberries, there are a few tips to keep in mind.

Be careful that your feet and knees do not damage plants or fruit in or along the edge of the row.

Pick only the berries that are fully red. Part the leaves with your hands to look for hidden berries ready for harvest.

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(Special photo)

To help the farmers, also remove from the plants berries showing rot, sunburn, insect injury or other defects and place them between the rows behind you. If they are left in the plants, the rot will quickly spread to other berries.

Avoid placing the picked berries in the sunshine any longer than necessary. It is better to put them in the shade of a tree or shed than in the car trunk or on the car seat. Cool them as soon as possible after picking.

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When You Get Home

Don’t wash the berries until you are ready to use them, as washing makes them more prone to spoiling. Pour them on a towel or into shallow pans and remove any mushed, soft or rotting berries. Strawberries may be kept fresh in the refrigerator for two or three days, depending upon the initial quality of the berry. After a few days in storage, however, the fruit loses its bright color and fresh flavor and tends to shrivel.

To freeze: Wash and cut the hulls off of the strawberries. Lay flat on baking sheet and flash freeze for several hours. Then, place them in a ziplock bags for freezer storage, removing as much air as possible.

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Strawberry Pretzel Salad is a healthy and delicious option for a side dish or dessert. (Special photo)

STRAWBERRY PRETZEL SALAD

Ingredients

2 cups coarsely-crushed pretzels

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup melted butter

3/4 cup sugar

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

9 oz. Cool Whip

2 cups boiling water

6 oz. package strawberry jello

2 small cartons of frozen strawberries, or 2 cups fresh, sliced strawberries, sweetened

Directions

Step 1: Mix pretzels, sugar and butter together. Pat into a 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes; cool.

Step 2: Mix cream cheese, Cool Whip and sugar; spread over cooled pretzels.

Step 3: Dissolve gelatin into boiling water and add strawberries. Let set partially in refrigerator and then pour over cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate 2 hours of overnight; makes 12-15 servings.

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When stored properly, strawberry jam will last for 2-3 years. (Special photo)

STRAWBERRY JAM

4 cups prepared fruit

6 1/2 cups sugar

1 box Sure-Jell

To prepare fruit, crush about 2 quarts fully ripe strawberries. Measure prepared fruit into a 5-6 quart saucepan. Measure sugar into bowl; set aside.

Place pan holding fruit over high heat. Add Sure-Jell, stir until mixture comes to a hard boil. Add sugar at once.

Bring to a full rolling boil and boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from fire, skim foam from top, and pour into sterilized jars.

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STRAWBERRY CAKE

Cake

1 package white cake mix

1 small package strawberry-flavored gelatin powder

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup mashed strawberries, frozen or fresh

Strawberry Icing

1 box confectioners’ sugar

1 stick butter, softened

1/2 cup mashed strawberries. If using frozen strawberries, watch quantity of juice.

Combine ingredients; can add milk to thin if necessary.

Preparation:

Blend cake mix, and oil. Beat in eggs. Add gelatin powder, strawberries and water. Beat only until smooth. Pour into tube or bundt pan and back at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Let cool before icing.

For icing, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar together until smooth. Add strawberries. Spread between cake layers, then frost top and sides.