Beginning in mid-June and running through early July, the strawberry season is all too short in Maine. The good news? If you love the sweet flavor of freshly picked berries, there are several options for savoring the season. From memorable pick-your-own farms to the best places to find homemade strawberry desserts and refreshing drinks, this guide will satisfy even the most discerning strawberry fan.
BERRIES BY THE SEA
A six-generation coastal berry farm, Maxwell’s is popular among locals and visitors for its lush strawberry fields and proximity to the ocean. Co-owner Lois Bamford says the onshore breeze and moderate climate slows the ripening of the berries and makes for a longer picking season. And while the warm June sun can beat down on the fields while picking, she says cooler, more comfortable temperatures are another benefit to a seaside pick-your-own location. “When our customers compliment us on great-tasting berries, we tell them that it’s the salt air!” Bamford said.
This year, Maxwell’s Farm will host the 10th Annual Cape Farm Alliance Strawberry Festival (capefarmalliance.org/strawberry-fest) on June 29 and 30. If you go, save time to visit nearby Two Lights State Park on Two Lights Road (off Route 77) for views of Casco Bay and its expansive rocky coastline.
Maxwell’s Farm, Two Lights Road, Cape Elizabeth. maxwellsfarm.com
If you’re in search of a serious summer thirst quencher, Liquid Riot Resto-Bar is the place to go. Its seasonal strawberry cream ale, called Ichigo Cream (“ichigo” is Japanese for strawberry) is inspired by Liquid Riot owners Eric and Julie Michaud’s years in Japan.
To create this unique ale, Liquid Riot combines Japanese sake yeast and deep-red Honeoye strawberries from Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth. The result is a slightly sweet, easy drinking cream ale. Ichigo Cream will be available on tap in August.
Liquid Riot Bottling Co., 250 Commercial St., Portland. liquidriot.com
A visit to this award-winning gelato and sorbetto scoop shop is always a treat, especially during the height of summer strawberry season. Gelato Fiasco harvests its berries from Fairwinds Farm in Bowdoinham to create seasonal flavors of dairy-free sorbetto and creamy gelato. Try the tangy strawberry rhubarb swirl sorbetto; refreshing strawberry mango gelato; or perennial favorite, strawberry balsamic sorbetto, which is on par with eating a bright, fresh berry. Gelato Fiasco will begin using the Fairwinds Farm strawberries to make these flavors in early July.
Gelato Fiasco, 425 Fore St., Portland, and 74 Maine St., Brunswick. gelatofiasco.com
PICK AND HIKE
Traditional, pick-your-own Bradbury Mountain Berry Farm is located less than a mile away from Bradbury Mountain State Park, making for an easy morning day trip of hiking and berry picking. Beloved by visitors and the local community, the scenic farm offers a variety of strawberries, including big and juicy Cavendish; a new variety called Flavorfest, known for its generous size and surprising sweetness; and a deep-red, late-season variety called Malwina.
Dwight Ely, who runs the farm with his son Charlie and daughter-in-law Aimee, says families particularly enjoy that the rows of fruit are wide apart, making it easy for kids and parents with strollers to navigate between them. In case you want to grab your strawberries and go, the farm also has berries for sale at its roadside stand.
Bradbury Mountain Berry Farm, 429 Elmwood Road, Pownal. 730-0662.
HAVE YOUR CAKE
Beth’s Farm Market is a must-stop for gorgeous produce, flowers and homemade baked goods. If you’re searching for a quintessential summer treat, this strawberry shortcake is worth the splurge. The shortcake is made with Beth’s sweet berries, buttermilk biscuits from the bakery, and topped with generous amounts of freshly whipped local cream. Maine native Sianne Gendron purchases the shortcake on the way to her grandmother’s midcoast home. She says the fluffy biscuits, coupled with Beth’s farm-fresh berries, cannot be beat. “The biscuits are light, deliciously layered and not too sweet – that real Maine dinner biscuit. Most importantly, the biscuits hold up well to the berries. They stay nice and soft and take on just the right amount of berry juice. I love this dessert.”
In case you can’t make it to the market this summer, Beth’s offers strawberry shortcake through October.
Beth’s Farm Market, 1986 Western Road, Warren. bethsfarmmarket.com
You could easily spend an entire morning at Stutzman’s strawberry picking, followed by shopping for seasonal fruits and vegetables or homemade breads and treats from the bakery (the whoopie pies are a crowd-pleaser). Brunch at the farm-to-table cafe is also a great way to spend a Sunday. Enjoy live local music with views of the farm. Try the much-lauded brick-oven breakfast pizzas made with farm-fresh eggs and garden herbs or stuffed french toast with locally sourced bacon.
And if you can move after brunch, bring home some strawberries from their fields. For a strawberry lover, there’s no better way to spend a few hours.
Stutzman’s Farmstand & Bakery, 891 Doughty Road, Sangerville. 564-8596