I Love You Berry Much!
Strawberry picking is a common summer activity in Canada. You don’t have to travel very far to buy local berries because they grow in every Canadian province and U.S state! These delicious fruits not only represent our country’s colour but our Indigenous peoples were one of the first to find strawberries. The Indigenous peoples even introduced European countries to strawberries (how “sweet” of them to share!). My family and I always count down to when we can get our hands on these juicy treats. Prime strawberry picking time in Ontario is Mid-June to Mid-July and with mid-July approaching, strawberry picking is a top priority!
If you live in Toronto or are visiting Toronto, strawberry picking is a must do! Here are some local farms to visit that have strawberry picking:
• Downey’s Farm Market – north of Brampton, only $3 to enter the patch!
• Forsythe Farm – not only can you pick up many local fruits and veggies, but you can also visit the animals on the farm, go on a wagon ride and play on the barnyard adventure playground! Forsythe’s is located in Uxbridge
• Organic Farms– for those in Markham! This farm went organic in 2001 and now is free of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers
• Stonehaven Farm – a six generation family owned farm located in Campbellville!
• Reesor’s Family Farm – Located in Markham! They also have a farmer’s market and run yoga classes in their greenhouse!
If you can’t get out to pick your own strawberries – that’s okay! Head over to your nearest farmers market and select an already picked bunch. It is best to wash your strawberries just before eating them – this will prevent spoilage and allow them to stay fresh for longer. The best way to wash these berries is to dip them in cold water, let them to sit for a few minutes and pat them dry and serve at room temperature.
Strawberries are wonderful to eat on their own, in cereal, on yogurt or made into a jam. Strawberries are very rich in antioxidants which benefit heart health. They are also rich in vitamin C which improve your immune system and skin health! Strawberries are the only fruit to hold their seeds on the outside of their skin. On average, strawberries can have up to 200 seeds! Many strawberry products that are bought in the grocery store are loaded with preservatives that we cannot pronounce and combined with unnecessary sugars – this is why we are going to share with you a yummy homemade recipe!
This homemade low sugar jam recipe has only 4 ingredients!!! This is a great “farm to fork” activity to do with your family. You can pick the strawberries right from their patches, bring them home, clean them and then make jam for your toast, sandwich or even as a topping on your ice cream!
What you need:
• 4 Cup Fresh Chopped Strawberries (the pieces can be chopped different sizes)
• 1/3 Cup Maple Syrup
• 3 Tbsp Chia Seeds
• 2 tbsp Lemon Juice
What to do:
1. Make sure to wash your hands before you begin.
2. Place two plates in the freezer.
3. In a medium saucepan, combine the strawberries and maple syrup.
4. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently.
5. After about 5 minutes, when the strawberries are starting to break down, add the chia seeds, lemon juice, and reduce the heat to medium-low.
6. Continue cooking uncovered, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching, for about 10 to 20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and the strawberries have broken down.
7. To test thickness: Take out a plate from the freezer and place a spoonful of jam on it, allow it to sit for 30 seconds. If the jam slides very quickly down the plate, keep cooking but if the jam slides low and it seems thick – it’s done!
8. If not thick enough test every 2 mins to ensure you don’t overcook.
9. Place the jam in sanitized jars and cool to room temperature.
10. Put in fridge and it will last up to 3 weeks!
For a quick and easy jam, just mash up some strawberries and add chia seeds to thicken. This is the perfect cure to a sweet tooth on a rushed morning.
Strawberry picking is family fun event that can be enjoyed by children of all ages and allows parents to teach their children about local food. It’s important to introduce local foods into your lifestyle because they are high in nutritious quality, give the most amazing flavours and help to support local farms! Getting your hands dirty in a strawberry field is the best mess you could ask for and there’s no right or wrong way to do this - you're always picking a winner. So, on that note, get your buckets and sweet tooth ready and go pick some fresh berries!
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Chef Lisa Ruscica
Chief Food Ambassador