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

50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine consulted dozens of power brokers and behind-the-scene players to determine and rank the 50 individuals who, in Pittsburgh, make things happen.
15 of Pittsburgh's Future Power Brokers

15 of Pittsburgh's Future Power Brokers

According to the region's behind-the-scene players, these individuals are some of the city's rising stars.
Aggressive and Adaptable: Pirates' All-Star Gerrit Cole

Aggressive and Adaptable: Pirates' All-Star Gerrit Cole

Entering into the final weeks of the 2015 regular season, pitcher Gerrit Cole has emerged as the Pirates’ ace.
At täkō - Terrific Tacos and Tequila Are Just The Beginning

At täkō - Terrific Tacos and Tequila Are Just The Beginning

Richard DeShantz and Tolga Sevdik strike again with täkō, their taco-centric downtown eatery with an extensive tequila selection.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Commuting Toll: How Much Do We Waste Stuck in Traffic?

Commuting Toll: How Much Do We Waste Stuck in Traffic?

Pittsburgh gridlock not only frays nerves — it dings the wallet.
Breeding Success: Alpaca Farming is Booming in Western Pa.

Breeding Success: Alpaca Farming is Booming in Western Pa.

Our rolling hills are good for more than vegetable gardens and chicken coops. Dozens of alpaca farms are located in the region.
Head North to Find the Comfiest Place in the Pittsburgh Area

Head North to Find the Comfiest Place in the Pittsburgh Area

Cranberry Township was the only western Pa. area mentioned in a nationwide list of most comfortable cities.
'We Are Family Matters' Pirates Mashup is Brilliant

'We Are Family Matters' Pirates Mashup is Brilliant

Pittsburgh viral video genius Benstonium creates another winner.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

50 Most Powerful People in Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Magazine consulted dozens of power brokers and behind-the-scene players to determine and rank the 50 individuals who, in Pittsburgh, make things happen.
15 of Pittsburgh's Future Power Brokers

15 of Pittsburgh's Future Power Brokers

According to the region's behind-the-scene players, these individuals are some of the city's rising stars.
Aggressive and Adaptable: Pirates' All-Star Gerrit Cole

Aggressive and Adaptable: Pirates' All-Star Gerrit Cole

Entering into the final weeks of the 2015 regular season, pitcher Gerrit Cole has emerged as the Pirates’ ace.
At täkō - Terrific Tacos and Tequila Are Just The Beginning

At täkō - Terrific Tacos and Tequila Are Just The Beginning

Richard DeShantz and Tolga Sevdik strike again with täkō, their taco-centric downtown eatery with an extensive tequila selection.
 A Sign That This Time, It's Good to Part with the Past

A Sign That This Time, It's Good to Part with the Past

Pitt Girl explains her change of heart on what should be done with the large, decaying billboard on Mount Washington.
Oh, the Humanities - Can They be Saved?

Oh, the Humanities - Can They be Saved?

Locally and nationally, college and university students are flocking to programs they perceive to be pathways to jobs while they forego studies of languages, history, art and philosophy. But at what cost?
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module