Short season makes strawberries taste sweeter

By Andrea Pyenson
Globe Correspondent / June 9, 2010

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For New Englanders, strawberry season can never come soon enough. Though unnaturally large, bland versions from the West Coast are shipped here year-round, nothing matches the taste and texture of a red gem, brimming with sweet juicy flavor, plucked from a nearby farm. We pile them onto shortbread with a dollop of whipped cream, slice them into salads, puree them for cold soups, bake them into muffins and quick breads, and, of course, eat them in the car on the way home from the farm.

Summer-like temperatures in April brought an early strawberry crop this year. Tom Hanson of Hanson’s Farm in Framingham, reports picking his first strawberry of the season on May 25, about two weeks earlier than usual. If temperatures stay reasonably cool through June, he says, berries will last through early July, the traditional end of the growing period.

“It always comes down to the weather,’’ he says.

Hanson’s Farm will be loaded with strawberries this season for people who visit the farm stand, the farm’s stalls at the Somerville, Framingham, and Waltham farmers’ markets, and for those who come to the farm to pick their own.

“It’s a great family activity,’’ Hanson says. He met his wife picking strawberries on his farm 30 years ago, after persuading his father to open the activity to the public.

The Hansons grow Annapolis, Jewel, Clancy, and Sparkle strawberries, selected for their sweet taste and timed to last throughout the growing season. They do not use chemicals, which Hanson says makes them a healthier option than those sprayed with pesticides or treated to survive long trips.

Every year, the Hanson family reserves one night for a strawberry shortcake feast. Tom Hanson prefers his with old-fashioned biscuits. He also enjoys the luscious red berries with homemade vanilla ice cream, though he doesn’t indulge as often as he did when he was a child.

His grandparents had a hand-crank machine. “At [their] house, for family events, all the kids would take turns turning the crank and putting in salt,’’ he recalls. “Nothing tastes better than that.’’

Andrea Pyenson can be reached at