“They’re not in season right now,” is a phrase no one wants to hear when craving the sweetness and freshness of a berry in the middle of winter. On the bright side, if you act on it right now, there are several ways to enjoy our favorite native-grown berries all year round! The benefits to shopping for fruit at a local farm don’t end with a level of freshness we won’t get anywhere else — our purchases will also be helping to support the farms in our area. Many of these farms allow us to pick your own berries and enjoy the experience with our friends or family. So remember: the only way to get farm-to-table freshness is from farm-to table products!There are farms in and around Mansfield that offer fresh berries at peak ripeness. There are many benefits to shopping for fruit at a local farmers' market or farm stand. You can also find fresh berries in season at the Storrs Farmers Market every Saturday afternoon on the Town Hall lawn. In addition to a level of freshness you won’t get anywhere else, you will also be helping to support local farms, and you may be able to enjoy picking your own berries and making memories with friends or family. Be sure to contact the farms for information on availability.
Once you bring your farm-grown berries home there are a few great ways to preserve them to make them last longer. One of the best ways is to freeze them. To accomplish this, rinse them thoroughly. Next, make sure they are FULLY dried with a towel. Once dried, place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, then spread out the berries individually to ensure they are not touching one another. Place the juicy berries in the freezer overnight to ensure that they will not be frozen together. Take them out the next morning and place them into plastic bags, removing as much air as possible. This process can help berries last up to six months in a normal freezer, and a year in a deep freezer.
There are many ways to turn your berries into different forms of treats to enjoy. Some common ones include: dehydrated berries, jams, fruit spreads, and fruit leather. Here is a recipe to try for Mixed Berry Jam by Alison Roman of The New York Times (2022)
With early spring in motion, many people are looking forward to some gardening to wipe off the winter gloom. If you’re one of those people, you may find yourself wondering “What should I plant?”. Well, it’s a good thing that the Storrs Regional FFA is here to help out! According to us, here’s the best things you can plant for this time of the season: beets, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuce, onions, peas, and spinach. These crops all can make the perfect addition for your garden and when they are ready to harvest they can make a perfect addition to your kitchen as well.
As tempted as you might be, hold off on those tomatoes and peppers until it’s a tad bit warmer! It’s also important to keep in mind that the last frost date in our area still isn’t until later in May, so make sure you have cover ready for all these outdoor crops when the temperature drops. Happy planting!
Maple syrup is a common kitchen ingredient that is served with pancakes and waffles but there are people who don’t actually know how the sweet, golden brown liquid is made.
Maple syrup is made from the sap of a sugar maple tree that is collected and boiled down into the sticky liquid we enjoy. There are only a few weeks each year when these trees can be tapped which is when temperatures are in the 20s at night and reach 40°F-50°F during the day. To collect the sap, a tap must be inserted in the trunk of the tree, then the watery sap drips into a bucket. The sap will flow freely when the conditions are right, and collecting sap demands persistent attention.
Once the sap is collected it can be made into maple syrup simply by boiling the sap down into a syrup once the boiling liquid reaches 219°F. Once it reaches 219°F it is filtered and bottled.
Two of the farms in Mansfield ,CT where local Connecticut maple syrup is sold are the Varga Family Farm and Bailey’s Maple Syrup and Honey. You can also find local syrup at Mansfield Supply, Lisa’s Chocolates, G.M. Thompson & Sons, the Storrs Farmers’ Market and at Stearns Farm Stand.
Contributed by Margaret Prosperie, Storrs Regional FFA Student, Edwin O. Smith High School working with the Mansfield Agriculture Committee
Trinity Jones, Sophomore. Edwin O. Smith High School Agri-Science Program, Plant Science
Quinn Hope, Junior. Storrs Regional FFA & Plant Science Student in UCONN ECE Fundamentals of Horticulture Course