May 20, 2013

I've come a long way with Strawberry Shortcake. Remember that berry-bubblegum-scented doll from the '80s? Her striped socks and pink beret brought a little spunk to those fruity, freckled cheeks. And remember that other strawberry shortcake of the '80s? When my mom bought those cellophane packages of dimpled cakes and filled them with berries and a mountain of Cool Whip, my brother and I thought it was well worth "suffering" through broccoli to get dessert.My, how times change. Today, the delight from strawberries comes from finding a huge one hiding under leaves in the garden border. And the strawberry shortcake of choice is a homemade, pillowy buttermilk cake with fresh berries and lemon rind. From U-Picks to market tables, now is the time to stock up on strawberries.

National Pick Strawberries Day is today, May 20, so what better day to get to it? Pick basketfuls to preserve, to use fresh in our Spinach Strawberry Salad, or to toast the happy occasion with a refreshing drink, such as Strawberry Agua Fresca. If you pick more than you can think you can eat in a week, you'll need our 20 Favorite Strawberry Recipes. Got a dehydrator? Try your hand at drying them for sweet nips in homemade granola.

The plants are quite pretty, too. Create your own U-pick by the kitchen door. Consider a walkway border of Mignonette alpine strawberries, fashioned after the old-fashioned wild, intense-flavored varieties. Or seek out newly introduced pink bloomers, such as Frisan or Berries Galore ® Pink, which are as pretty as they are sweet. In our garden, we have both everbearing and June-bearing varieties for continual harvest and a longer harvest season. Because, however long strawberry season is where you live, it's definitely short -- but oh so sweet.

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