If you don’t know the difference between a fresh Ontario strawberry, and a typical strawberry from any grocery store usually imported from the U.S., just slice them open.
The store-bought berry has a layer of red that, if you’re lucky, goes about halfway through the berry. The rest is white. This is because they are picked too early so as to be shipped. A freshly picked Ontario farm berry, however, is red all the way through, with only a bit of white where the stem is attached. The red is where the flavour is, so guess which berry is better?
Store-bought berries are also usually tough in texture; if it squishes in your hand, it’s spoiled. A fresh berry is firm but at the same time almost melts in your mouth. The flavour is luscious, cloying, wafting over your tongue and up your nose, enveloping every taste and smell sensor you have.
Strawberry season is June in Ontario and with this comes pick-your-own farms, strawberry suppers at the local legion or church, and for many families in my area, a visit to Springridge Farm in Milton. Springridge is run by the Hughes family, who have been farming for six generations (over 100 years). There is a playland with hay bales to climb, farm animals to feed, pony rides, wagon rides, a sandbox with miniature tractors, corn maze, bakery and gift shop.
They are open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., from April to Christmas. They host birthday parties, easter egg hunts, fall harvest with pumpkins and a boo barn, and a Christmas show with Santa and crafts. Everything in their bakery and frozen section is homemade on the farm or made by local food artisans in the area.
It’s great fun watching little ones see their first goats and chickens, learn where eggs come from and run from the large white turkey who patrols the play yard, the only animal wandering freely, and who is taller than some of the kids.
Springridge doesn’t offer the pick-your-own experience, but they do grow and sell strawberries for $7.50/litre, $18.50/4 litres, and $40/tray. Treat yourself to a day at the farm before they are all gone. You’ll never look at a grocery store strawberry the same way again.