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May/June 2006
Fresh Off the Vine: Strawberries
Swing into Summer by Savoring the Sweet Flavor of Locally Grown Strawberries.

by Andrea Rowland + photos by Jason Turner

• • •

Strawberries ripening on the vine, their berries deepening in color as May rolls into June, signal the inevitable unfolding of summer. And what better way to enjoy those warm, lazy days than with the sweet taste of locally grown strawberries? The phenomenal flavor and impressive health benefits are worth the work waiting in Washington County’s strawberry fields this season.

At one of Lewis’ Orchards & Farm Market’s strawberry fields in Smithsburg, Dr. Mark Meany of Hagerstown braved the hot June sun to fill nearly 40 quart-sized baskets with succulent berries. For the past 25 years, Mark — a doctor at the Martinsburg (W.Va.) Veterans Affairs Medical Center — has bent over the rows at the popular patch to pick berries for his family and friends. “I always pick my own. I like to eat them with vanilla ice cream and Cheerios, and I like to drop them off at my friends’ houses,” he said.

The summer heat and a bulging belly didn’t stop veteran picker Tish Mehalow of Smithsburg from filling her basket in the field. “I like being in the outdoors. I love the people here. And I just feel like I’m getting a better value by picking them myself. I know exactly what I’m getting.” With about two weeks to go before her baby arrived, she figured she still had enough time to make a delicious strawberry cake roll and some jam and to freeze the rest of her berries for winter shortcakes.

Likewise, Sharon Sollenberger of Sharpsburg planned to use her juicy harvest for strawberry shortcakes, pies and jam. “I’ve never seen such big strawberries,” she marveled.

Shirley Lewis, who owns the orchards and market with her husband, Nevin, said the 2005 Dar Select strawberry crop was outstanding — but the big berries just couldn’t compare in flavor to their smaller cousins in another Lewis field. “We’re quite pleased with the Dar Select, but you’ll never beat Earth Glow,” Shirley commented. “It’s a little, dark, sweet berry — sweet as honey. We still grow them for our loyal customers, but 98 percent of the people want a bigger berry.”

Delicious and Nutritious
Strawberries are more than just mouth-watering and versatile treats. They’re also packed with Vitamin C (Eight medium berries provide an impressive 140 percent of the daily recommended allowance.); are high in fiber; have no fat or cholesterol; and contain antioxidants, which are believed to be good for disease prevention. Antioxidants found in foods like strawberries can supplement the body’s own antioxidants, helping to protect tissues from the damage caused by free radicals.

In addition, a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that strawberries are full of the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol. Research shows that these two flavonoids help keep “bad” (LDL) cholesterol from oxidizing and damaging artery walls. Recent studies have also shown that the phytonutrient quercetin can induce the self-destruction of human cancer cells — one of the primary ways the body eliminates damaged cells.

With all of these health benefits and great flavor, to boot, it’s easy to understand why strawberries are the season’s sweet stars. So what are you waiting for? Head to one of Washington County’s strawberry fields to fill your basket with one of nature’s most amazing foods!

---

Need to Know
The local strawberry growing season generally lasts about one month and starts in late May, depending upon the weather. You can pick your own strawberries at the following locations:
Gardenhour Orchards, Inc.: 22511 Gardenhour Road, Smithsburg; 301-824-7466.
Lewis’ Orchards & Farm Market, Inc.: 22550 Jefferson Blvd., Smithsburg; 301- 824-2811.
Mountain Valley Orchard: 22541 Jefferson Blvd., Smithsburg; 301-824-2089.

   view more articles from the May/June 2006 issue >>

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