One Chicago mom’s adventures in strawberry picking

My kids and I went strawberry picking a week ago. In almost 34 years (I mean, 29 years, ahem), I’ve never gone strawberry picking myself, and it was something that didn’t even make the proverbial bucket list. They sell strawberries at Jewel. I bet there are bugs in that field. Isn’t it a little hot out? Does the strawberry patch also serve wine?

Of course, my pre-children activities are a lot different from my activities as a mom. Before having kids, I spent most of my time indoors. I worked in an office. I relaxed on the couch with a good book. My husband and I went to museums, restaurants, pubs, shows. I shopped at the mall. Sure, occasionally, we’d sit outside with our drinks or take a stroll around the neighborhood, but I was never outside as much as I am now. In the summer, with two young children, I live outside. I’m getting tan again. I was tan as a kid, then not so much in my twenties, and now, bam. It’s summer, I’m bronzed and I’m finding myself hanging out in strawberry patches.

Of course, we had a great time. The farmer showed us how to spread open the leaves of the plant and look for the perfectly red, heart-shaped berries that lay tucked inside. My kids were naturals at plucking the berries, and they were beyond excited to engage in such a novel activity. Imagine! Picking your food straight from the earth! It was a treasure hunt of delicious proportions, and I had to laugh at my two-year-old, who would eat three strawberries for every one that made it into his basket. When we walked past the farmer on the way out, I half expected him to ask me to pony up another $6, as Alex’s face and shirt were just positively drenched in berry juice.

Later, for lunch, we had our sandwiches with a generous side of fresh berries. For dinner, I tossed strawberries into our spinach salad. We sprinkled sugar on strawberries for a sweet dessert. But by the time breakfast rolled around the next day, my older son moaned, “No more strawberries!”

We’d barely made a dent in our pickings, and so I found myself engaging in another activity that I’d never done before: freezing strawberries! Who does that kind of thing? Farmers and housewives and parents who take their kids strawberry picking and come home with too many strawberries for one family of four to possibly consume within that small window of ripeness. That’s who. As I spread my washed and de-stemmed berries onto a tray for freezing, I had a vivid vision of myself, six months older (still looking fabulous), tossing a gnarly looking bag of freezer burned strawberries straight into the trash. And yet, I persevered.

Come to find, though, the frozen strawberries are an amazing addition to our freezer. They lay in their ziplocked freezer bag between our french fries and chicken thighs, and their deep red color sings one beautiful word to me.


That’s right, now we’re drinking smoothies. Here’s an easy recipe for you and your kids if you’ve gone strawberry picking lately and come home with more berries than you’d bargained for. Take a handful or two of frozen strawberries and blend with one small banana and one cup of orange juice (more or less to taste). That’s it. Make a smoothie for your kids and one for yourself and pour that goodness straight into your travel cups. It’s a delicious, refreshing treat to take along on your wagon ride to the park or whatever other outdoor activity you’re about to hit up. And it’s the absolute perfect use for all those extra, tasty berries.

Strawberry picking. Who knew?

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