“Everybody from the coast to the mountains should have strawberries right now,” said Dexter Hill, marketing specialist with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.The strawberry, a delectable heart-shaped fruit, is North Carolina’s state red berry. The tastiest strawberries are the ones you pick yourself or gather from your local farmers market, nothing beats their flavor and fragrance.”Even with the rain this year and the earlier season, it’s been a pretty good year,” said Katie Lee, a strawberry farmer from Meadow.The agriculture promotional day celebrations at the State Farmers Market feature dessert competitions, free ice cream, and on this day, a life-size strawberry to pose with for pictures.The minute this treat begins to ripen you may find yourself racing over for a basket larger than your family can consume in a month given nothing else to do and an appetite for only strawberries. What now?StoringStrawberries are best when prepared and eaten in the same day, but if you must keep them longer, store them in your refrigerator. Arrange the berries in a shallow container, separating out any damaged berries. Cover them loosely, and keep at 35 degrees for best results. Do not remove the caps or wash the berries until you are ready to use them. When caps are removed before use, the berries lose some of their moisture. Washing early tends to bruise them and the berries lose their freshness.PreparingWhen preparing (for whatever use), place the berries in a strainer and rinse with cool water. To remove the caps, give them a gentle twist or use the point of a sharp knife, trying not to remove any of the berry. The tip of an ordinary vegetable peeler makes a good tool for capping berries.Pick away and store up for later, they don’t last long, and when they’re gone you’ll be glad you’ve got that jam, jelly, and frozen bag come November.
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