Strawberry Fields For Everyone- How To (Locally!) Enjoy The Season’s Sweetest Treats

Photo via Flickr Creative Commons ( Summer's great for a lot of reasons. Beaches are open, it stays light out late, and farmer's markets, CSAs and grocery stores start getting some of the best bounty of the year- berries! Strawberry season officially begins in April and ends in July, and just a little outside the city, you can find a few excellent ways to celebrate this fantastic fruit (which is in fact, more of a flower extension than a fruit by botanical definition). And you might as well celebrate, since strawberries, besides being delicious, are incredibly good for you. One cup of these beauties is only 50 calories but packs 3 grams of fiber. In addition, strawberries are full of phytonutrients, flavonoids and antioxidants, as well as being excellent sources of vitamins C and K, folic acid, manganese and potassium. Photo via Visit Long Grove Facebook Page One way to get your fill is by taking a road trip just about 40 minutes outside the city to the north next weekend for the Long Grove Strawberry Festival. It's all about the berry here with everything from prime rib sandwiches doused in strawberry salsa to strawberry wine made at local wineries. One of our favorite stops for the fest is Long Grove Confectionery, which will be full of chocolate dipped berries and other delicious things to try and take home.  There are three stages with live entertainment and a Kid Zone  with plenty of activities across the three day festival, and admission is only $5 with free parking.  Three day passes can be had for $10, and children's admission is free for those 12 and  younger.  From strawberry shortcake to strawberry candles and locally made strawberry soda, there's not much you can't find in this fruity flavor during the festival.  Long Grove's Strawberry Fest is June For more information about the fest check out their Facebook page and the Village of Long Grove's brief but enthusiastic festival info page here. Photo via Thompson Strawberry Farm. If you'd rather decide what to do with your summer strawberries and even pick them yourself , head out for a slightly longer trip and hit up the Thompson Strawberry Farm in Bristol, WI. This family owned, pick-your-own farm has been in the area for 70 years, and boasts 20 acres for picking. The season just opened up on June 14th and will run through at least July 4th, and though the heat has affected the availability of the farm's pre-picked berries, it's still a steal for berries better than any you'll find in a supermarket  to pick your own, with a 4 qt.  basket of strawberries being just $9. Thompson also offers a 6 for the price of 5 deal, should you have a desire to buy in bulk and try your hand at jam (or even just to save for winter, since strawberries freeze incredibly well).  Once the strawberries are gone, you can also head to this family farm for raspberries (August through October) and even pumpkins. Photo via Thompson Strawberry Farm Finally, if you don't feel like venturing out into the Beyond, you can get amazingly sweet, ripe berries from one of the city's finest farmer's markets. We at Third Coast picked up a pint of fantastic berries this week from the Division Street Market. You can find your nearest farmer's market using this link. Strawberries are the flavor of summer for me, and truth be told, I love them so much I'll even settle for the bloated, mass-produced winter variety, but I'm extra glad that the real thing can be had so readily and celebrated so heartily so close to home. Have a happy harvest!
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Marielle Bokor