By Amy Ahlberg
One of the most reliable signs that summer has started? That there are fresh local strawberries to be had. Here's our pick of this season's crop of festivals and pick-your-own farms that feature these delicious heart-shaped berries. Visit one in your area for a sweet taste of ye olde family fun. When you get home, make the most of your bounty with any of these recipes.
(Important note: Always double-check with a phone call the day of to confirm farms' pick-your-own hours and availability.)
This fifth-generation family farm in Delaware grows Chandler strawberries using sustainable methods; their sweet gems have featured in local craft brewery Dogfish Head's Tweason'ale. Come by on May 19 (10 a.m.-4 p.m.) for their sixth-annual strawberry festival (as well as the last chance of the season to forage through the farm's five acres of U-pick strawberries).
Must-have treat: Cross your fingers for last year's festival specialty -- homemade strawberry doughnuts.
1919 Allabands Mill Road, Camden-Wyoming, DE
Located on the site of a former arboretum, this farm's parklike setting is the backdrop for a June 16 festival (10 a.m.-2 p.m.) filled with farm games, strawberry shortcake, and an acre of pick-your-own organic berries.
Must-have treat: Sip your way through one the festival's fresh strawberry smoothies.
90 Wellesley Street, Weston, MA
On June 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the 44th annual Strawberry Festival on Topsfield's town common will feature an artisans fair, historic reenactments (check out the Parson Capen house, built in 1684), and many, many shortcakes served up by the Historical Society -- with hand-whipped heavy cream from an award-winning local dairy, Richardson's.
Must-have treat: Those strawberry shortcakes aren't going to eat themselves.
Route 97 and East Common Street, Topsfield, MA
Former teachers, the Benners bought this 15-acre farm on the North Shore of Long Island in 1978 and learned everything they could about living self-sufficiently. They've been raising organic strawberries (currently the Honeoye variety) since the very beginning. Come to their 24th-annual Strawberry Fair (June 9 and 10, 12 p.m.-4 p.m.) for homestead crafts, old-fashioned games, and a variety of yummy organic strawberry goodies, including homemade strawberry ice cream.
Must-have treat: Sample Mrs. Benner's from-scratch strawberry shortcake.
56 Gnarled Hollow Road, East Setauket, NY
This organic farm and agricultural education center also has an on-site commercial kitchen. At their 10th-annual Strawberry Festival (June 24, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.), you can sample dishes like chef Alison Baker's golden beet and fennel salad with strawberry vinaigrette and strawberry jam dot cookies. Then plunder the three-acre pick-your-own field for varieties such as Jewel, Eros and Sparkle.
Must-have treat: Homemade strawberry popsicles will bring sticky smiles to children's faces.
225 Pavillion Road East, Thetford, VT
Pick Your Own
Pick Albion and Seascape strawberries while taking in a sweeping view of Monterey Bay at this small family farm that's been organic-certified for more than 15 years.
40 Zils Road, Watsonville, CA
Select sustainably-grown strawberry varieties such as All Star, Cavendish, and Kent from about 15 U-pick acres in the rolling White Hills of Connecticut. On June 2, you can explore the homestead on a two-hour Farmer's Heritage Hike.
606 Walnut Tree Hill Road, Shelton, CT
Harvest Honeoye, Jewel, and Sparkle varieties from 10 sprawling U-pick acres on this quiet family farm. The owners, who have been farming this land since the early 1970s, follow organic practices and use sustainable farming techniques.
62785 280th Street, Nevada, IA
This New England farm's wooded setting with distant mountain views offers up a half-acre of U-pick organic strawberries.
352 East Hadley Road, Amherst, MA
This southwestern Michigan apple farm (just 100 miles from Chicago) also grows certified organic Earliglo, Jewel, All Star, and Cavendish strawberries on just over an acre; pack lunch and have a post-picking picnic in a picturesque orchard setting.
8335 Smith Road, Berrien Center, MI
Pick Jewel, Glooscap, Wendy, and Cavendish varieties from three acres of scenic hilltop fields at this certified organic farm.
8375 Sethney Lane SW, Alexandria, MN
Gather juicy Jewels on three and a half acres of pick-your-own fields surrounded by woods at this certified organic farm in New York's Finger Lakes region.
82 Main Street, Freeville, NY
Pick seven different varieties of certified organic strawberries on four acres at this Long Island farm owned by a chef-turned-farmer. Tours of the farm are available on Saturdays during strawberry season.
652 Peconic Bay Boulevard, Jamesport, NY
Gather Earliglo and Jewel berries from this family farm's four acres of gently rolling U-pick fields. The farm has been certified organic for more than 20 years.
750 Wiltsie Bridge Road, Ancram, NY
Head to this farm on Sauvie Island, a freshwater island 12 miles from downtown Portland, Oregon, and you'll find certified organic Hood strawberries -- a delicate, sweet variety particular to the Northwest.
16205 Northwest Gillihan Road, Portland, OR
This serene southern Willamette Valley farm specializes in everbearing varieties, resulting in a longer growing season.
86915 Territorial Road, Veneta, OR