Farm candy is calling

Posted: Saturday, June 18, 2016 12:30 am
By Tessa Edick
For Columbia-Greene Media
 
Pick your own. Meet your farmer. It’s time for farm candy!
 
Dive into strawberry season where everything is coming up rosy. Sweet as candy, you will crave strawberries galore.
 
No one is happier than me! Each and every year, June arrives as we celebrate local agriculture and visit family farms like Thomson-Finch in the Hudson Valley.
 
Plan a trip to the field to indulge in deliciously ripe, freshly picked, organically grown strawberries that offer pure love and a connection to where your food comes from. Even the Beatles were fans — “Strawberry Fields forever,” inspired by John Lennon’s memories of playing in the garden of a Salvation Army children’s home in Liverpool near where he grew up in England.
 
Marnie and Don MacLean grow nearly seven acres of pick-your-own strawberry, raspberry and blueberry crops as well as an orchard of apples, all of which are certified organic since 1988.
 
The Thompson-Finch farm has been in Marnie’s family for five generations and started out by growing a wide variety of vegetables sold to local restaurants and retail stores. The legacy continues in Ancram today. Give a call and make visiting and cooking a priority this month.
 
The strawberry fruit is a delicacy with pedigree. It was mentioned in ancient Roman literature in reference to its medicinal use. In fact, the entire strawberry plant was used to treat depressive illnesses.
 
The French began taking the strawberry from the forest to their gardens for harvest from the farm as far back as the 14th century. Charles V, France’s King from 1364 to 1380, had 1,200 strawberry plants in his royal garden. In the early 15th century, western European monks were using the wild strawberry in their illuminated manuscripts. The strawberry is found in Italian, Flemish and German art and in English miniatures.
 
By the 16th century, references of cultivation of the strawberry became more common. People began using it for its supposed medicinal properties and botanists began naming the different species. In England, the demand for regular strawberry farming had increased by the mid-16th century. The combination of strawberries and cream was created by Thomas Wolsey in the court of King Henry VIII. Instructions for growing and harvesting strawberries showed up in writing in 1578. The garden strawberry was transplanted from the forests and then the plants would be propagated asexually by cutting off the runners.
 
The introduction of Eastern North America to Europe in the 17th century is an important part of history because this species gave rise to the modern strawberry. The new species gradually spread through the continent and did not become completely appreciated until the end of the 18th century. When a French excursion journeyed to Chile in 1712, it introduced the strawberry plant with female flowers that resulted in the common strawberry that we have today.
 
The garden strawberry hails from the Rosaceae family of fruit formally know as the Fragaria — ananassa species — and is widely grown and cultivated worldwide for its fruit. Widely appreciated for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture and oh so lovely sweetness, it is typically consumed in large quantities, either fresh or in prepared foods.
 
Its legacy stems from 18th century Brittany, France from hybrids of Northeast America and the woodland strawberry of Chile (the very first species cultivated in the early 17th century). Each apparent “seed” on the exterior of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, which encapsulates a single seed and on average, a strawberry has about 200 seeds on its external membrane.
 
Strawberries vary widely in size, color, flavor, shape, season and some vary in foliage, while flowers function as either male or female.
 
Pick straight from the field and eat, package and take home and make shortcake, savor on biscuits with breakfast or can and preserve as treasures to unfold six months into the future as toppings, jams, chutneys and preserves that keep us eating local all year long.
 
Pick your berries with the caps still attached with at least half an inch of stem left. Strawberries need to remain on the plant to fully ripen because they do not continue to ripen after being picked and don’t wash your berries until just before consumption to maintain freshness. Then when ready, cover in a shallow pan and refrigerated when storing.
 
Take a trip to the farm and savor the sweetness beyond taste and beyond candy! FarmOn!
 
Visit Thompson-Finch Farm, LLC, 750 Wiltsie Bridge Road, Ancram, or call 518-329-7578. For more information on farms near you, visit pickyourown.org.
 
To contact Tessa Edick, email tessa@farmonfoundation.org or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @FarmOnFarmOn.
 
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