Picking Strawberries
Strawberries taste the absolute best when eaten freshly picked off the vine as you kneel in the middle of our strawberry patch on a bright, sunny morning. Second best - any other way you eat them!!

Strawberries are not only delicious but they are good for you. They supply vitamins A and C and calcium. One cup of berries are a dieter's delight at only 55 calories.

When picking strawberries, try and pick early in the morning when the fruit is still cool. Gently twist the berry off the stem leaving the green on the berry. Be careful - don't pull. Whether picking or buying, look for bright red, well-shaped fruit without hard green areas. At Red Wagon Farm, we grow five varieties of strawberries. They are Darselect, Clancy, Eros, Valley Sunset and Ovation.  All of our berries are excellent for eating, jam and pies, desserts and salads.  They are different sizes and different shapes.  We grow the different varieties for flavor and timing.  If you choose to be an expert then try them all!!  Everyone has a favorite!  We pick different fields on different days. We try to put you in the field with the absolute best picking conditions.

Buying Strawberries
The best strawberries are the ones you pick yourself or buy at Red Wagon Farm. Our farm fresh berries have not endured a long trip to the grocery store. Note that excessive handling will cause berries to deteriorate. You will simply love the flavor and fragrance of a fresh-picked strawberry.

Choose strawberries that are as red and fully ripe as possible. Green or white tipped ones will have little flavor. Strawberries will not ripen further after being picked. You can tell a good berry by its brilliant color. The fresher they are the more they shine. Strawberries become dull and dark when they are overripe, on their way to berry heaven.

Look for strawberries that are well shaped and filled out. The large ones may not be the best buy as it takes fewer of them to fill your bucket. Smaller fruit during the season will be the freshest and most flavorful. Larger berries are not usually the sweetest. The stem that is well attached and green is also a good sign of a tasty fruit. Wilted stems indicate tired berries.

Quantities to Buy
We sell strawberries at Red Wagon Farm either in our 4 quart bucket (U-pick) or in single quart containers. When purchasing, keep the following in mind:

One quart weighs about one and a half pounds.
One quart is equal to about 4 cups of berries.
One quart is required for a nine inch pie.
One quart is equal to about 2 cups of crushed berries.

Preparing Strawberries
When you get home, try to spread the berries on a tray in the refrigerator. Rinse berries when you are ready to use them. Don't rinse them ahead of time. Most berries are clean. Rinse berries under cold water very briefly. Do not soak the berries. Remove stem and leaves after rinsing, not before. Drain in a colander and if possible spread them on a paper towel to air dry.

Berries taste best at room temperature. Always taste one berry before you start to cook with the others. Sweetness varies. If they seem especially tart to you, you may want to add the maximum amount of sugar that your recipe calls for. As a general rule, add 4 to 6 tablespoons of sugar for each quart of berries, depending on their tartness.

For long term storage, freezing is recommended. Fruits retain more nutritional value and flavor by freezing than by any other method of preservation. Strawberries can be frozen and safely kept for up to one year. Use quart or pint freezer containers or heavy plastic freezer bags.

Strawberries can be frozen several different ways: dry-pack, sweetened, unsweetened, floated in a sweet syrup, or tray frozen whole. The initial preparation of the berries is the same for all methods. Choose firm, ripe berries. Rinse in ice water before hulling. (Fruits washed without the stem lose more vitamins than those destemmed after washing.) Drain well on several layers of paper towels, being careful not to crush or bruise the berries.

Dry-Pack Sweetened: Slice washed, hulled berries into a bowl. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup sugar for each quart of berries. (Amount may vary depending on personal taste.) Mix gently until the sugar dissolves and juice forms. Fill freezer containers, shaking to pack closely. Leave 1/2 inch head space for pints, 3/4 inch for larger containers. Seal and freeze. 2/3 quart fresh berries equals 1 pint frozen.

Dry-Pack Unsweetened: Wash, drain and hull the berries. Crush gently and pack in containers, shaking to pack tightly. Fruits frozen without sweetener will keep, but they may lose some of their flavor, texture, and color.

Sweet Syrup Pack: Wash, drain and hull the berries. Prepare a sugar syrup. To make 5-1/2 cups (enough for 8 quarts of fresh berries) mix 3 cups sugar with 4 cups water and boil until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until cold. Slice the berries into freezer containers and cover with the cold syrup. Allow 1-1/2 cups fruit and 1/3 to 1/2 cup syrup per pint container. Leave 1/2 inch head space. Seal and freeze.

Tray Freezing: Place the washed, hulled berries in a single layer on trays. Freeze until solid. Pack tightly in freezer containers or heavy plastic bags. Seal and freeze.

Thawing Strawberries
Frozen strawberries are suitable for use in many recipes. Berries tend to lose their texture and soften when thawed. The appearance of the dessert may change somewhat, depending on the recipe. When substituting for fresh berries, use the same measure of frozen berries. If your berries were packed with sugar, reduce the amount of sugar called for in the recipe. A rule of thumb: for every quart of frozen, sweetened berries, reduce the amount of sugar called for by 1 cup. For berries frozen in a sugar syrup, reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe accordingly.