Sucker-punched again: Those suspiciously large, carmine strawberries show up in the grocery store in April and I, with the taste of summer just out of reach in the back of my memory, I am vulnerable.
The berries are pale, woody, and disappointing — but I have only myself to blame, because I know I should have waited.
Minnesota’s strawberry season is tantalizingly short — mid-June to mid-July. Smaller and more delicate than their greenhouse cousins, Minnesota berries are also sweeter, juicier, and red to the core.
Patient Downtowners can find berries from Burning River Farm, Heath Glen Farm, and Northwoods Organic Produce, among others, at Mill City Market on Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings. The Lyndale Market (open every day) and Nicollet Mall Market (Thursdays) allow out-of-state produce, but you’ll find local gems as well.
For that fresh-off-the-vine summer berry experience, you can head south toward Northfield, where the Lorence family has grown strawberries on the farm since 1978, and now have more than 20 acres of strawberries, in addition to raspberry and asparagus operations run by their son.
Living on a strawberry farm, Susie Lorence understands the heightened pleasure that comes from waiting.
“People ask, ‘Well, don’t you ever get tired of eating them?’ and you actually never do. The season is too short,” she says.
For those of us who still haven’t come to terms with the brevity of that season, there are better ways to cheat time than to resort to the greenhouse or international shipping. We’re talking good, old-fashioned preserves — and no, you don’t need to pull out the canning jars. Instead, you can stock your freezer and pull out a hint of summer any time of year.
A hint of summer I know I’ll never find in a plastic box in April.
Lorence’s Berry Farm
28625 Foliage Ave. (also known as Cedar Avenue and Dakota County 23)
Grown-up strawberry sauce
2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved if large
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated fresh lemon juice
Place all ingredients except lemon juice in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add a quick squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Let cool and refrigerate or freeze in a nonreactive container. Serve over vanilla ice cream.