Three weeks ago we asked CT Examiner summer intern Oliver Falla to help locate the best strawberries from small farms across southeast Connecticut.
Falla asked the advice of local farmers. He asked Guilford-based James-Beard-nominated pastry chef Whang Suh, who uses local strawberries in his strawberry, vanilla, citrus, pistachio “Frasier.” He met with Baylee Drown of Upper Pond Farm in Old Lyme, whose strawberries are particularly well-regarded.
This week despite record rains, the weather has proven well-suited for ripening — the early strawberries are ready to pick — and Falla set out to collect pints from farms in the region.
Staff at CT Examiner then conducted a blind test, with multiple tastings, with and without sugar, in effort to identify the very tastiest strawberries for cooking and for eating out of hand.
We will be the first to admit that the although Falla drove as far as Glastonbury, we were hardly able to try every strawberry from every farm, and among those missing from the contest was Upper Pond Farm — we promise to right that wrong on Saturday at the Lyme Farmer’s market!
The good news is that not only was the winner chosen by unanimous decision, but the top two choices are easily available to local residents…
The consensus staff favorite are strawberries grown by Dondero Orchards in South Glastonbury. It was the first year that Joe and Sandy Dondero have grown a relatively new hybrid variety, Galletta, which seemed to excel in the wet weather. Staff described described the medium-sized firm, richly red fruit as the “most fragrant” “tart” “clementine like” with a deep, lingering taste.
For locals in Old Lyme reluctant to make the drive up to South Glastonbury — though they are worth the trip — the good news is that Dondero Orchards will have a table at the Lyme Farmers Market this Saturday at Tiffany Farm.
Second Place to the sweetest
The very sweetest fruit, and perhaps the best eaten out of hand were the strawberries from Scott’s Yankee Farmer in East Lyme, with a rich flavor and just the right acidity.
The first two strawberries, we think, could have been decided either way. Our third place finisher, Belltown Hill Orchards in South Glastonbury, while sweet, and showing modest acidity, lacked the long depth of flavor of our top picks. It seems likely that these, and a few of our other picks, may have suffered from the rains, and may improve with drier weather as the season progresses.