Strawberries

Local strawberries bring the sweetness of summer to the table.



Photo by Laura Petrilla

It’s June, and in western Pennsylvania, that means the short (but oh-so-sweet) strawberry season is upon us. It’s time to get local berries, especially since the harvest is normally over by the end of the month. At no other time can you find strawberries like this—ripe, fragrant, juicy and perfectly sweet—and they really don’t need much to enhance their flavor. Eat them plain, use them to make strawberry shortcake (see p. 76 for Chris Fennimore’s recipe), slice them and serve over vanilla ice cream or dip them in a bowl of melted chocolate.

Originally, strawberries were tiny, wild and extremely delicate. The fruit’s first improvement occurred in the 17th century, when a natural hybrid was created after two New World species combined.

F. virginiana, the first species, was discovered in the colonies, where the American Indians ate it fresh or dried. The second species, F. chiloensis, a larger and juicer type with pineapple overtones, was carried back to France by an officer who discovered it at the foot of the Andes Mountains in Chile. European plant-breeders used this larger, sturdier berry to create new varieties.

In 1823, a British hybrid called the Keens’ Seedling trumped them all for size and flavor, and became the plant from which almost every modern strawberry descended.

By the 1940s, California established a strawberry industry that continues to dominate the market today (80 percent of domestic strawberries are grown there); this has turned out to be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it means you can buy strawberries year-round, but on the other hand, berries that can survive cross-country shipping are picked before their peak and will never truly taste great. In addition, industrial-sized strawberry fields are sprayed many times with noxious agricultural chemicals, which is just one more reason to support local growers, who generally use a variety of controls to manage weeds, pests and other factors that can damage the crop.

This month, visit one of the city’s farmers markets, and bring home berries that were picked that same morning.

Here’s a handy lineup of strawberry-focused farms and festivals to help you enjoy the local crop while it lasts. Harvest usually begins around Memorial Day and lasts through the end of June. If you’re interested in the pick-your-own option, call ahead or check individual websites for dates and times.
 

Harvest Valley Farms

The King family uses sustainable farming practices (meaning that they use the least amount of pesticides necessary) to grow strawberries. Located about 20 miles from downtown Pittsburgh, the 140-acre farm’s store sells freshly picked berries as well as homemade jam. Harvest Valley strawberries are also sold at many local farmers markets, including East Liberty (Mondays, 3:30-7 p.m.), Market Square (Thursdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.) and the Monroeville Lions Farmers Market at Gateway High School (Saturdays, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m.). The farm also offers a CSA with pick-up sites around the city, and, of course, strawberries are included in the baskets.

Harvest Valley Farm, 125 Ida Lane, Valencia; 724/443-5869; Harvest Valley Farm Market and Bakery, 6003 Cunningham Road, Gibsonia; 724/898-3276; harvestvalleyfarms.com.

Triple B Farms

The Beinlich family has been growing strawberries for more than two decades. At their Farm Market (open daily), you can pick up juicy berries, strawberry jam and homemade white-chocolate fudge with strawberries. The farm offers a pick-your-own strawberries option between Memorial Day and the end of June (lasting about three to three-and-one-half weeks). Visit during the annual Strawberry Festival Weekend (June 11-12) to take a hayride through the strawberry patch, participate in fun children’s programs and enjoy treats like homemade strawberry shortcake.

823 Berry Lane, Monongahela; 724/258-3557; triplebfarms.com.
 

Trax Farms  

This farm, located 14 miles south of Pittsburgh, allows visitors to pick their own strawberries and hosts a Strawberry Festival (June 10-12): Crowds come with the kids to take advantage of pony rides, a petting zoo, a balloon artist and a tent with children’s activities. A variety of strawberry treats are available, including sundaes, milkshakes, slushies, shortcake and fresh strawberries dipped in milk chocolate. The market, which features freshly grown produce, a bakery, a deli and a gift shop, also sells strawberries during the season.

528 Trax Road, Finleyville; 412/835-3246; traxfarms.com.
 

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Review: Salt of the Earth

Review: Salt of the Earth

Brandon Fisher is the latest chef behind Salt of the Earth’s modern-American dishes.
2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

Sharing the DNA of the father of children’s television, the Fred Rogers Company reinvigorates a beloved legacy while creating new hit characters and content that help children to grow, giggle and learn.
Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Jamie and Ali McMutrie were PM's 2010 Pittsburghers of the Year after airlifting 54 youngsters to safety. Now, they have forged a relationship with a major global player to continue their work to prevent struggling Haitian families from surrendering children to orphanages.
PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

Four ways to make the city even better in 2015.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Destined to be a Classic: Pittsburgh Penguins 'Christmas Vacation' Parody Video

Destined to be a Classic: Pittsburgh Penguins 'Christmas Vacation' Parody Video

Evegeni Malkin is priceless at the end.
This Weekend: Chris Jamison & the Steelers, Pens & Ugly Sweaters, Mayor Undercover

This Weekend: Chris Jamison & the Steelers, Pens & Ugly Sweaters, Mayor Undercover

Some cool things to watch out for this weekend in the ’Burgh.
#Oops — Or, About that Headline . . .

#Oops — Or, About that Headline . . .

Once in a while, no good deed goes unpunished.
Now Online: Two New Cameras to Keep an Eye on Pittsburgh’s Bald Eagles

Now Online: Two New Cameras to Keep an Eye on Pittsburgh’s Bald Eagles

A Murrysville security company has installed the new cameras, which provide sharper images of the Hays eagles.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Review: Salt of the Earth

Review: Salt of the Earth

Brandon Fisher is the latest chef behind Salt of the Earth’s modern-American dishes.
2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

Sharing the DNA of the father of children’s television, the Fred Rogers Company reinvigorates a beloved legacy while creating new hit characters and content that help children to grow, giggle and learn.
Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Jamie and Ali McMutrie were PM's 2010 Pittsburghers of the Year after airlifting 54 youngsters to safety. Now, they have forged a relationship with a major global player to continue their work to prevent struggling Haitian families from surrendering children to orphanages.
PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

Four ways to make the city even better in 2015.
Penguins Profile: The Fearless Patric Hornqvist

Penguins Profile: The Fearless Patric Hornqvist

The Penguin winger fits in easily with the team, thanks to his infectious personality and his mad dedication to confounding opposing goaltenders.
Rev It Up: This South Side Pittsburgh Loft is Unique and Unusual

Rev It Up: This South Side Pittsburgh Loft is Unique and Unusual

This three-story home melds all of the comforts of home with the sleek look and efficiency of industrial design.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags