Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Wednesday

July 2, 2014

Bursting with Berries: Make the most of summer's harvest

TRAVERSE CITY — Travelers along Good Harbor Road in Cedar often make a U-turn after passing the faded white outbuilding with its hand-lettered sign: "Fresh Strawberry’s."

It’s not the misspelling — a family joke — that gets them to turn around but rather the farm stand draped with its fruit-patterned tablecloth, atop which sit quarts of plump, red strawberries and jars of Rennie’s “Slammin’ Jammin’” — the stand’s signature strawberry jam.

“My mom follows the same recipe every time,” said Christina Rennie, 19, who helped operate the family stand for about 10 years. “It’s some old-fashioned recipe with lots of sugar.”

Local strawberries will peak now through the second week of July, thanks to a late season, growers say. The berries, which traditionally signal the start of the summer fruit harvest season, are especially welcome this year, after the region's long, harsh winter.

“We go all year without locally grown produce and then we’re so excited when it comes,” said Jennifer Berkey, of MSU Extension Grand Traverse. “I think we pick and we’re overzealous in our picking, and then life happens and we’re busy, it’s a good beach day, and we end up with overripe berries.”

Happily strawberries are as good for the body as they are for the taste buds: high in antioxidants and rich in beneficial nutrients including vitamin C, fiber and folate. Best of all, they’re easy to find — think roadside stands, farm and farmer’s markets and grocery stores — and easy to preserve.

The Rennie stand started as a way for Rennie and her brother, Peter, then about 10, to make money during the summer. Now it’s a Leelanau County mainstay during strawberry and cherry seasons.

“He made the sign the first time and we’ve never changed (the spelling) since then,” said Rennie, a Colorado Mountain College junior who uses her half of the profits to support her skiing habit.

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