Strawberry Topping (Sugar Free)

This Sugar Free Strawberry Sauce is made with pure maple syrup and a squeeze of lemon – the perfect complement to these hand picked, amazingly sweet berries!

Strawberry Sauce (Sugar Free) from Simply Fresh Dinners

Strawberry season is here and people will be flocking to the farm to get the most popular berry.  There are strawberries available in the market and of course, you can pick your own.

Hand picked strawberries from Barrie Hill Farms

I love collaborating with the farm to bring fresh, seasonal recipes to you and I will be visiting at least twice a week for inspiration this summer.  It is absolutely my favorite place to be!

Pick Your Own Strawberries at Barrie Hill Farms

The berry is a work of art and I don’t mess with perfection!  The best plant based food needs only natural ingredients to enhance and enjoy and this 3 ingredient strawberry topping is quick, easy and pure goodness.  Try it on yogurt, ice cream, pancakes, pie or cheesecake.  You can go the savory route too – it’s fabulous on chicken! The possibilities are endless!!

What are you doing with your strawberries?  Share and tag us on Instagram so we can see what you’re up to in your kitchen!

Check out more of our strawberry recipes:

Strawberry Topping (Sugar Free)

This Sugar Free Strawberry Sauce is made with pure maple syrup and a squeeze of lemon - the perfect complement to these hand picked, amazingly sweet berries!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Canadian
Servings: 8
Calories: 56kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 lb strawberries, hulled and sliced thickly
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup (more if you desire a saucier consistency)
  • 1/2 lemon

Instructions

  • In a medium saucepan, combine sliced strawberries, 1/3 cup maple syrup and freshly squeezed juice from 1/2 lemon. On medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. 
  • Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. 
  • The sauce will thicken up as it cools and if you are storing it in the refrigerator, it will thicken even more so be careful to get the consistency you want.

Nutrition

Calories: 56kcal | Carbohydrates: 14g | Sodium: 1mg | Potassium: 126mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: 5IU | Vitamin C: 36.9mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 0.3mg
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Recipe courtesy of Simply Fresh Dinners,  A partner with Barrie Hill Farms in bringing fresh recipes to your table.

 

When are Strawberries Available at Barrie Hills Farm?A calendar showing when crops are available at Barrie Hills Farm.

 

 

Strawberry Picking 101: Tips for Bringing Home the Best Berries

Strawberry-Picking-Barrie-Hill-Farms

Strawberry picking in June is an Ontario tradition you don’t want to miss out on. If you haven’t tasted fresh-picked strawberries, then it’s definitely time to sample Ontario’s sweetest treat! Make the most of your first strawberry picking excursion, and ensure your berries are at their best with these suggestions.

When Does Strawberry Picking Season Start?

Strawberries are at the peak of freshness from the end of June to mid-July in Ontario. Since availability is entirely up to mother nature, it’s wise to check with your local farm before planning your trip. Many farms also have an annual Strawberry Festival. Strawberry Festivals are held when strawberries are at their freshest, and usually attract crowds of strawberry lovers with strawberry-themed entertainment and strawberry treats.

To be prepared for your day of strawberry picking, it’s important to bring water, wear a hat and bring sunscreen. It’s also a great idea to bring a gardening pad to comfortably rest your knees on as strawberries are harvested from the ground. To prevent waste, you can also bring your own shallow containers from home.

Strawberry Picking Tips:

• Be choosy with your berries. Pick only the ripe berries that are red all the way to the hull (green tops) and leave the rest to ripen on the plant. Unlike other fruits like tomatoes, strawberries do not ripen after picked.
• To pick the berry, don’t grasp it on the fruit itself, but pinch the green stem and gently twist it. Allow the berry to gently fall into your hand. You can pick with two hands to speed up the process.
• Lay the berries gently in a shallow container, and do not stack them too deep, as the weight of the berries on top will cause bruising on the berries below.
• The ideal berry-picking day is overcast because the berries are cooler and won’t spoil as quickly. It’s perfectly fine to pick in the rain. In fact, it’s enjoyable to pick in a light summer rain!
• Pre-plan what you will do with your berries, and freeze the left-overs, so there is no waste.
• Pick enough strawberries to share with friends.
• Carefully transport the berries home and refrigerate them immediately in a shallow dish, after removing any bruised or spoiled berries. Don’t store them in a hot car for any amount of time as this will speed up spoiling.
• Wash and hull berries (remove the green top and white core) only when you are ready to eat them, as adding moisture by washing will cause them to grow mould. After washing, gently dry with paper towel to remove excess moisture.

How to Freeze Fresh Strawberries

Don’t worry if you over-picked your strawberries! They can be easily frozen to enjoy in milkshakes, smoothies or over ice cream. The trick to freezing strawberries is to do this before they have started to spoil.
1. First, remove any mouldy or soft berries. Next, hull, wash and carefully dry your berries. Since they will be soft after thawing, you’ll want to ensure you chop them to your preferred size before you freeze.
2. Once you have prepared your berries, lay them out on a cookie sheet with a layer of parchment beneath, without touching. Freezing them separately is important, otherwise, they will freeze together in a hard lump that will be too difficult to use.
3. After the berries have fully frozen, transfer them from the cookie sheet to freezer bags and squeeze out all the air before sealing. If prepared well, berries should last 6 months in the freezer, and are ideal to add to your morning smoothie recipe.

Our Favourite Fresh Strawberry Recipes

Strawberries are best enjoyed in classic recipes, such as strawberry-rhubarb pie, strawberry shortcake, jam, and of course, sliced and topped with whipping cream. Strawberry Pie can also be made ahead and frozen to enjoy later.

Celebrating the harvest with strawberry picking and strawberry festivals is a tradition that comes from Ontario’s agricultural heritage. It wasn’t that long ago that harvesting the berries and preserving them for the rest of the year was a very important task, as it meant the sweet taste could be enjoyed for later. Now that strawberries can be imported from other parts of the world, this important piece of Ontario history needs to be preserved. Plan to make strawberries part of your own family’s summer traditions and make memories to cherish out of this short and sweet growing season.

Top 10 Reasons You Should Choose the Farm Market Over the Supermarket

Top reasons to choose the farm market over the supermarket.

Even if you’re in the heart of the city, it’s worth a drive to your local farm market.  Getting closer to where your food comes from results in the freshest food possible, along with an excellent day out in the sunshine if you opt to pick your own.

While this may seem like work to you, it’s a labour of love. When you pick your own fruits and vegetables, you’re guaranteed the very best, and you’ll appreciate it that much more because the rewards are delicious!

10. Buying Farm Fresh Produce Supports Farmers and the Local Economy.

It’s true. Farmer’s feed families. Help keep our farms strong by showing your support. Feel good about every dollar you spend, because it goes into the preservation of a way of life that sustains us all.

9. Farm Market Produce is the Freshest.

While farm markets sometimes take in fruits and vegetables from other local farms, you can rely that the food is the freshest available. In many cases, it’s mere hours – not days – from field to table.

8. Fresh Produce is More Nutritious.

Experts agree that time and travel reduce the nutritional value of the food we eat. You get more from your food when it travels less.

7. Food from Farm Markets is Safer.

While you must always wash your fruits and vegetables before eating, farm market food is safer to eat. Supermarket produce is often handled much more, traveled farther, and is older.

6. Preserve Precious Farmland for Future Generations.

Supporting local farms in Barrie is one way to ensure that farmland is here to stay. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Our land for growing food is a precious resource that we need to protect. Show your support and ensure that farms thrive to ensure the food security for future generations.

5. Fresh Baked Pies. Jams. Preserves. Honey.

Farm Markets source delicious artisanal foods locally, so there’s always something delicious to eat for dessert.

4. Source the freshest Dairy Products at Farm Markets.

Many farm markets also carry a selection of fresh dairy products sourced locally as well. So, stock up on the freshest eggs and artisanal cheese, as well.

3. Fresh Picked Flowers.

Many farm markets carry an assortment of fresh flowers to decorate the table for your delicious summertime feast.

2. Celebrate the Seasons.

Observe the changing seasons by the agricultural calendar. Whether it’s the first berries of spring, or picking out your pumpkin for Halloween, it’s fun to bring the kids and really notice the changing of the seasons.

1. Avoid the Lineups and Parking Lots.

Shopping locally at your farmer’s market is something to be enjoyed, not another chore to do. There’s something to be said for slowing down and simply enjoying the good weather while it lasts.

Have we convinced you yet? Visit a Farm Market near you, before the long, lazy days of summer are over.

 

Fresh Asparagus is for Sale in May and June- Enjoy it These 5 Ways

5 delicious ways to enjoy asparagus

Photo by Stephanie Studer on Unsplash

There’s nothing like the fresh taste of spring in the year’s first crops. Each year in Ontario, fresh asparagus is for sale at farms in Barrie in May and June, and for a few short weeks, it is at its most delicious.  It’s the official kick-off to spring’s first farm fresh produce.  Here is how to pick, prepare and enjoy your asparagus.

Pick of the Crop: Choosing the Best Spears

When shopping for your asparagus, it’s important to engage your senses.  Look for brightly coloured stalks in vibrant green, sometimes with violet tips. These tips should be fully closed and compact. Squeeze the asparagus. It should feel firm to the touch and ‘squeak’.  Finally, your asparagus should smell fresh.  If the spears have lost their colour, smell or firmness, you should take a pass, as it may not be fresh enough.

Fresh, Frozen or Canned: How to best Enjoy Asparagus

For just a few short weeks every year, Ontarians can enjoy fresh asparagus for sale just a few kilometres from home. The rest of the year, you’ll have to resort to imported, frozen or canned spears.  Canning is a process that can leach important nutrients and often includes added salt, so it’s not the healthiest option.  Frozen asparagus is usually compromised in texture, and while it may suit cooking in soups or stews, it’s not ideal for steaming.  Imported asparagus is available throughout the year but tends to cost more and is less nutritious and enjoyable, thanks to the miles it travels.

Types of Asparagus

Asparagus in Ontario comes in two grades: #1 consists of straight, uniform spears with compact tips.  Choose #1 asparagus if you are steaming it, as the uniform size allows it to cook evenly and taste incredible with just a dash of salt and a pat of butter.

#2 asparagus has all the same flavor and freshness, but the spears may vary a bit more in size, making it harder to cook together. This is a great option for grilling though, as you can pull the spears off the BBQ as they finish cooking.

Cleaning and Preparing Asparagus

Once you get your asparagus home, you’ll want to eat it within a few days to enjoy it the most.  When it’s ready to eat, you’ll need to snap off the woody ends or cut them. Conventional wisdom is to snap the spears at their natural breaking point, but this can result in waste.  Another way is to simply cut off approximately 1” of the bottom of the spear and use a vegetable peeler to remove additional woody parts.

To clean your asparagus spears, often a swish in a bowl of water or a cool rinse is enough, but to ensure there’s no stubborn grit, you can blanch them.  To do this, simply use tongs to dip them in boiling water for a moment to release the dirt, and then run them under cold water. Once this is done, you can continue to prepare as you normally would.

Roasted Asparagus

Roasted Asparagus makes a delightfully easy accompaniment to a springtime dinner. To prepare, simply line a baking sheet with parchment or foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan and cracked black pepper. Bake at 350 to desired done-ness, and depending on the thickness of your spears, approximately 20 minutes.

Asparagus in Stir Fry

Asparagus is a great addition to your favourite stir fry, or all on its own. To get tender-crisp spears, chop into thirds, so they can be easily moved about the pan. Heat oil in non-stick fry pan and add the spears, stirring often until they are lightly browned. Add a couple of tablespoons of water to finish with steam, and promptly remove when they are easily pierced with a fork.

Blanching Asparagus

Since it’s only springtime that fresh asparagus is for sale, you may want to preserve it for later. You’ll get the best results if you blanch it quickly before you freeze it. Blanching has the added benefit of cleaning, sealing in nutrients and preserving flavour and colour. Blanching is also particularly good for asparagus before you grill it on the BBQ.  Just make sure it gets a cold bath immediately after to avoid over cooking.

Grilled Asparagus

For delicious grilled asparagus, simply baste your spears with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. You may wish to try blanching it prior to grilling as described above.  To avoid charring, keep a close eye and keep your asparagus moving throughout cooking. Simply remove spears as they are done. You can garnish your grilled asparagus with fresh lemon wedges.

Steamed Asparagus

For best results, use uniform pieces to ensure even cooking throughout. The best steamed asparagus is still slightly crisp. It is easy to overcook, so use a timer and keep a close eye. Simply place spears in a steamer basket after water has come to a boil, and steam for a few minutes until desired done-ness. To complete your steamed asparagus, try melting some butter with minced garlic and a little lemon juice to taste.

In Ontario, we are so lucky to enjoy farm fresh produce so many months of the year. But because we know winter is just around the corner, we enjoy it that much more! Here is one final reason to love your asparagus: it is rich in vitamins and nutrients.  It packs a powerful punch with vitamins A, C, E, K  and B6, plus folate, iron, copper, calcium, protein and fibre.

Asparagus is for sale at farm markets across Ontario at the peak of freshness only from early May until the end of June, so be sure to get it while it’s good!