I smelled them before I saw them. The air was sticky and heavy, the salt breeze hot. The smell of freshly blackened pizza floated into the street, tinged with a sweetness I could have identified anywhere. Fresh picked strawberries had blown into town.
The source had to be nearby; I spotted a woman on a bicycle, dodging and weaving through the Saturday crowd clutching a green box tightly covered with plastic and a rubber band. I walked into Ryder Square, and there it was: a sea of sweet, red berries.
A palpable flush rose over me as I stepped up to the famers' market table buy a box. Fresh, Massachusetts fruit was finally in season, and I could hardly believe my good luck at having stumbled upon it this humid afternoon. I cashed in $26 for four quarts; no bargain, but a fair price considering the early season. I wondered how much the out of season quarts cost at Stop n Shop—perhaps $3 or $4 each—meaning they offered a savings of roughly $10. With an ocean's difference of taste between the two, I didn't regret a penny as each plump berry burst against my cheeks.
This morning, I washed a quart and set the fruit out in a pottery colander for breakfast. As we lazed our way through the Sunday paper, we ate our way through the entire pile until only a heap of green crowns remained. Given how long its been since this house saw fresh fruit, I'm willing to bet the other three quarts won't last the week.
WHERE TO PICK YOUR OWN LOCAL STRAWBERRIES
Coonamessett Farm in Falmouth (508) 563-2560 offers pick-your-own with a day pass ($8 for adults, $6 for kids) and is expecting the berries to ripen up within the next week and a half.
Tony Andrews Farm in Falmouth (508) 548-4717 offers pick-your-own strawberries (along with rhubarb and spring peas) starting next Saturday, June 14 every day from 8am to noon until the fields are picked out. Bring your own containers.
The Baker Farm in Marshfield (781) 834-4021 offers pick-your-own strawberries beginning in mid June; call for details.
If you don't feel like picking, stop by your local farmers' market over the next few weeks. Vendors will be offering local berries starting next week.