I hate to admit it, but I have never been strawberry picking. Well, at least until today! I am proud to say that I finally made it out and took part in this prairie summer tradition. Over the years, I have always had great intentions of going, but you know how it goes – work schedules, being tired, excuse after excuse stopped me from trying something new and fun. This summer, I promised myself I would start making more time to try new things, like strawberry picking, and I am sure glad that I did.
My picking extravaganza began on a beautiful overcast July morning. It was perfect in every way. The humidity was down. The bugs were nowhere to be seen and there was just enough breeze to keep you cool. I visited Cormier’s Berry Patch for my first picking experience. It is located east of La Salle on highway 247, about a five-minute drive from the perimeter. It was bright and early in the morning and I was greeted by many smiling staff. I parked my car, picked up my cardboard fruit baskets and was told where to start picking.
I was amazed by the 10 acres of strawberry plants that this cute little farm has to offer. I was also surprised by the at least 80 other pickers around me, who came in groups, with children, with friends and with family, carrying stacks of empty buckets ready to pick these amazing little berries.
The minute I entered my row I got down to business and focused on the task at hand. There were gorgeous bright red clusters of berries, by the hundreds and thousands, just patiently waiting to be picked and eaten. The rows were nicely lined with straw to help keep down the weeds and mud, but this doubled as a nice soft bed to kneel on if needed.
I could have picked all day as this new activity was extremely satisfying, especially when I thought about all of the delicious things to come. I filled my baskets and heading back to my car I spoke to a few of the staff, who said it has been an excellent start to the season and the berries are exceptionally big this year. I paid on my way out and headed home to get to work.
Once I arrived home and unpacked the berries into my kitchen, I rewarded myself with a bowl of fresh berries. They were like no other strawberry I had tasted before. I have had fresh Manitoba strawberries a lot in the past, but something about hand picking them myself made them much more satisfying. After my little snack I started baking. On the menu for dessert that night was strawberry cream pie.
As soon as baking was over, I hulled, which is the proper terms for removing the green tops, about three quarters of the strawberries and packed them to be frozen. They will be a simple, sweet and healthy treat over the next few months. The rest of the leftover strawberries, will be indulged and enjoyed by my husband and I over the next few days.
My first experience strawberry picking was amazing and it makes me want to go back and pick more tomorrow, which I might just do. This is an experience that every prairie person should take in. We are so lucky to have this amazing fruit at our fingertips, literally, at this time of year. Picking berries has made me, once again, appreciate all the edible things that our province has to offer in the summertime. Try and take some time out of your busy schedule in the next week and hit the strawberry picking fields, I promise you will not be disappointed.
Melissa Hryb is the chef at Marion Street Eatery, where she specializes in hearty comfort food with a twist.
Follow her on Twitter @MarionStreetEat or Instagram @MarionStreetEatery