Spring is finally here! That means it’s time for some nice local fruits and veggies to add to our meals. I know, I know, we have plenty of super markets full of all kinds of produce, but there is nothing better than eating local and seasonal. Even better when you get to pick your own. Not only are we supporting local agriculture, but by eating local we are getting nutrient rich produce. Over the winter we have enjoyed nice local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), but we are happy to see that there will be more than apples in our menu.
Last week the pick-your-own season opened at Shlagel Farms – one of our favorite local farms. We had been following the progress of their crops on social media and were excited when farmer Russ said it was open season. So, I quickly made plans to visit and get our first collection of the season.
Shlagel Farms is about 45 minutes from downtown DC. It is an easy drive for a half day activity with the kids. The farm is small but offers a great variety of pick-your-own crops that change over the course of the season. They also have a nice farmers market with other local products to complete your purchase. We especially love the meat options, frozen and perfectly packaged.
As a non-US native, the idea of pick-your-own is new to me. Having the opportunity to experience this with my children has been extremely special. There is a little science to it but the process is rewarding. Shlagel has strict COVID safety protocols to ensure the safety of the farmers and visitors. Upon arrival, you can head to the market building to pick up your trays. Once there, you will be directed to the area you will be picking from. The picking areas are assigned to avoid crowding and to provide you with a space with enough fruits to take home.
The first crop of the season is strawberries, one of our kids favorites. We collected about 13 pounds between the three of us in about 30 minutes. Not bad for beginners (let us know if you are hiring, farmer Russ!). Of course, they boys were extremely happy with the fruit of their labor, but then came the question on what to do with them.
As soon as we got home, we washed and cleaned our strawberries, testing the quality along the way. We separated some for our weekly consumption and then cleaned some to freeze. We have had a great experience freezing them as they are perfect for shakes. To freeze, we cleaned the sepals and placed them in a baking sheet over parchment paper. Then we placed the tray in the freezer for at least 12 hours before moving to a freezer bag. The key is to freeze them separate them before storing in a bag. I prefer food grade silicone bags like the stasher to prevent freezer burn.
So as the days get longer and we try to find things to do with the kids, be sure to pay Shlagel Farms a visit and say hi to our farmer friends. Check out their facebook page for updates on the crops and to see what else is available as the seasons change.