I am a self confessed fruit-aholic. During the summer the only reason to go to the grocery store is to buy fruit and lots and lots of it. On my day off when I used to live in California I would go buy 4 pounds of cherries and then spend the rest of the day re-reading an Agatha Christie mystery and eating my way through the bags of cherries. When summer, and more importantly fruit season rolls around, I get excited. We've spent the winter eating through our freezers of fruit and garden veg and we gotta start building it back up for the coming winter, which means u-pick farms are my happy place.
After a lot of research we found an amazing farm that had u-pick hours that were on a weekday, perfect!! At 7 in the morning the Dulse & Rugosa team (minus the dogs) piled into the car and headed off to Full Fork Farm in China, Maine. We drove the scenic (long) route and ogled gardens, rock walls, and the extent of the brown tail moth invasion.
Full Fork Farm was amazing!!!! Even on a Tuesday morning people were out picking and enjoying the bounty of spring. Most of the people picking were families, it kinda felt like the spring version of the obligatory child in the pumpkin patch instagram photo we all see popping up every fall. We were the only group that was there to seriously pick. And I do mean pick!!! We walked away with 6 flats of berries or 48 quarts. We were not joking around. Claire and Carter are great berry pickers only picking the finest ripest berries but my berry induced OCD kicked in and I had to work really hard to not pick EVERYTHING that was red. It was hard to leave those berries behind.
Each row at Full Fork Farm was a different type of strawberry. What was so amazing was the range of tastes, sizes, and shapes. We were all soo amazed at the range of taste. Each row really did taste like a totally different strawberry. Some were tart (my favorite), others were smaller with more concentrated flavor, and one type was pure strawberry sugar, most of the children were picking in that row.
It was a 90 minute drive to Full Fork Farm and of course we stopped at Cate's Family Farm for more gladiolus corms and meandered down country lanes, so it was late afternoon when we got home and the processing began. That afternoon we set up multiple work stations to prep the berries for freezer camp, so so so many berries. Once the majority of the berries were in the freezer and not covering every flat surface in the house I got to work on making a simple syrup for our herbal sodas at our coffee shop, then strawberry jam, a strawberry rhubarb crisp, and finally some roasted strawberry cheese danish. By the end of the day you would think we would be sick of strawberries but what did we have for dinner??? You guessed it......strawberries.
Strawberry Thyme Simple Syrup for Herbal Sodas
In a pot combine 1 quart of sliced strawberries with 2 cups of water, 1.5-2 cups of sugar, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. I like it on the tarter side with less sugar. Heat this on medium until the sugar melts then let it simmer stirring occasionally for 20ish minutes. Pull the syrup from the heat and allow it to cool. Using either a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth strain the pulp. I freeze the pulp (just remove the thyme) since you can use it for a delicious cake filling. Bottle your simple syrup (a mason jar works great) and put it in the fridge. To make a herbal syrup, pour roughly 1/4 cup of syrup (adjust to taste) over ice and top with sparkling water and maybe a slice of lemon. Delicious!!!