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It’s strawberry season in Illinois

What’s Cooking in Illinois: ‘Tis the season for fresh, straight-from-the patch strawberries — and a couple of great recipes.

Charlyn Fargo Ware

May 29, 2024

3 Min Read
A close-up look at strawberry cobbler
STRAWBERRIES: Check out this strawberry cobbler cooked in a cast-iron skillet from The Pioneer Woman — a new favorite. Charlyn Fargo Ware

June is approaching, and that marks the start of strawberry season in Illinois. Strawberries are among the most widely grown fruit in the home garden. Who knew?

There is nothing sweeter than a just-picked, juicy-ripe berry from Illinois soils. Less than a mile from my home in Springfield was a U-pick operation run by retired farmer Ralph Jacobs. I’d drive by in the morning on my way to work, catch Ralph picking berries, and order a flat for pickup that evening. It was the taste of summer.

I’ve tried to grow strawberries in my own garden, but nothing beat Ralph having them ready for me. I’d add them to a spinach salad, nestle them in a shortcake, add them to overnight oats or yogurt, or blend them in a strawberry cobbler.

Seeing pints of the red berries is a welcome sight at farmers markets. Strawberries tend to taste sweeter and cost less when they are in season compared to the winter.

Strawberries are high in vitamin C, boasting more than citrus fruits when comparing ounce to ounce. Strawberries are also high in folate, an important nutrient for cell and tissue growth.

Look for berries with the green caps attached. If removed, an enzyme (ascorbic acid oxidase) is released, which destroys vitamin C.

You can store strawberries in the refrigerator for one to three days after purchase. Do not rinse until right before use. It’s best to rinse them using a colander under cool, running water. Trim off the green tops, and they’re ready to eat.

Here are a couple of favorite recipes I really enjoy: a strawberry cobbler cooked in a cast-iron skillet from The Pioneer Woman and an individual strawberry fruit pizza, adapted from USDA’s What’s Cooking. It’s a perfect snack or quick breakfast.

Strawberry Cobbler

1 stick salted butter (½ cup)
1¼ cup granulated sugar, divided
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 pounds strawberries, halved (about 6½ cups)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Vanilla ice cream, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Add the butter to a 10-inch cast-iron skillet; place in the oven for five minutes or until the butter is completely melted, swirling the pan occasionally. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Whisk together 1 cup of sugar with flour and milk in a medium bowl. Whisk together the remaining ¼ cup of sugar and cornstarch in another medium bowl. Add the strawberries and lemon juice to the cornstarch mixture, stirring to combine.

Pour the batter into the melted butter in the cast-iron skillet; do not stir. Spoon the strawberry mixture and any juices left in the bowl evenly over the batter, without stirring.

Place the skillet on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake on the middle oven rack until golden brown and bubbly, 60 to 75 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack at least 15 minutes before serving — with vanilla ice cream, if you like.

Individual Strawberry Fruit Pizza

1 whole-wheat English muffin
2 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese
2 strawberries, sliced
2 grapes, sliced
2 mandarin orange or Cutie sections, peeled

Gently rinse fruit under cool running water. Toast English muffin to desired color and texture. Spread cream cheese on both sides. Top English muffin with strawberries, grapes and oranges. Serves one.

About the Author(s)

Charlyn Fargo Ware

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with Southern Illinois University Medical School in Springfield, Ill. Email recipe ideas to her at [email protected].

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