JERSEY FRESH STRAWBERRIES IN SEASON

 New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher today visited Donaldson Farms in Mansfield Township to kick off the strawberry picking season in North Jersey.  The strawberry harvest began in South Jersey two weeks ago.

“Strawberries are the first fruit of the New Jersey growing season and signals many more Jersey Fresh produce items are on the way,” said Secretary Fisher.  “Jersey Fresh strawberries are picked ripe and are red all the way through. The taste is second to none.  If you want them, you better hurry because the season will come to a close before you know it.”

Photo of Secretary Fisher, Greg Donaldson and Pete Nitszche
Secretary Fisher, Greg Donaldson and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agricultural Agent Pete Nitszche after picking strawberries at Donaldson’s farm

Plump, juicy and delicious Jersey Fresh strawberries are available now at community farmers markets, local farm markets and pick-your-own farms in the state.  Harvesting of the popular spring crop began in mid-May and should continue through mid-June.

Donaldson Farms grows seven acres of Chandlers, Darselect and Cabot varieties.  They typically sell from 130,000 to 190,000 pounds of strawberries each year.

“Strawberries are a popular crop with consumers,” said Greg Donaldson, owner of Donaldson Farms.  “People coming for pick-your-own should look for berries that are ripe all the way to the tip.  Keep them on the counter if your house is cool and plan on keeping them for only a day.  Otherwise, put them in the fridge or cut the caps off and freeze.”

Donaldson’s berries are available for pick-your-own or at their farm market.  The family has been farming in the Hackettstown area of Warren County since 1906.  The farm now consists of 500 acres with another 500 leased acres, most of which is dedicated to growing fruits and vegetables.  The farm offers a variety of agritourism activities, including fall on-farm activities.

Let the Department of Agriculture know about where you find Jersey Freshstrawberries, recipes you make with strawberries and your visits to pick-your-own farms like Donaldson Farms by using #JerseyFreshLove when you post pictures to your social media channels.

Strawberries are a part of a healthy diet, providing a good source of vitamin C.  Strawberries should not be washed until ready to eat because their high water content, on top of the additional water, will result in a mushy berry. Once the caps are removed, an enzyme is released that destroys the vitamin C.  Be certain to remove the caps after rinsing to prevent the strawberry from becoming waterlogged and from losing vitamin C content.

Look for strawberries that are plump and firm with a bright red color and natural shine. The size of the berry is not important; the color of the berry and the fragrance are the best indicators of flavor. Caps should be fresh, green and intact. Avoid strawberries with green or white color, or those that appear mushy, shriveled or leaky.  Strawberries do not ripen after harvest, so they should be immediately stored in the refrigerator and picked as close to consumption time as possible.

When purchasing, check the carton for stains, which indicate over-ripeness. Remove the strawberries from the market or store container. Store in a shallow container on a paper towel in the refrigerator for up to three days. If a shallow container is not feasible, put paper towels between the layers. Remove from the refrigerator and serve at room temperature for optimum flavor.

While delicious in baked goods, strawberries are tasty raw, especially when served with a liqueur or when dipped in chocolate. Preserve as a jam, or easily freeze by coating in a water and lemon juice mix.

To find Jersey Fresh strawberries and other Jersey Fresh products at farm markets or pick-your-own farms, visit the Jersey Fresh website atwww.jerseyfresh.nj.gov.

Search for Jersey Fresh strawberry recipes athttp://jerseyfresh.nj.gov/recipes.