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Nothing compares to homegrown berries

Local produce season offers plenty of reasons to smile

Here we have it. Patio evenings. Hammock afternoons. Lounge-on-the-grass-with-a-paperback days.

Forget all that. What we really have is this: local strawberries.

I have waited for them for some time. I have, in fact, waited for the better part of a year.

Strawberry shortcake. Strawberry cheesecake. Strawberries and vanilla ice cream. Strawberries with just strawberries.

Sure, there've been California imitations. All year long. But comparing California strawberries to the local stuff is, well, rather like comparing Tang to freshly squeezed juice.

No similarity whatever.

"They're here!" I announced breathlessly, bounding in the door. "The local strawberries have arrived!"

I had just been to the grocery store -- and seen them.

The family, which tends to get more excited about Rory McIlroy drives than produce unveilings, looked decidedly unimpressed.

"I want to get 15 flats!" I said. "We're going to make jam! We're going to make smoothies! We're going to throw them on cereal and dip them in chocolate!"

The members of the household looked at me, apparently taken aback by the "we" word.

"I don't know how to make jam," one of the sons observed.

"OK!" I said. "So I'll make the jam! But you have to help me carry the flats to the car!"

The family, let's just say, enjoys the arrival of Happy Local Produce Season as much as anyone -- when it comes to the eating part.

The family does not, however, feel the thrill I feel when I spy strawberries -- or corn or new potatoes or green beans or leaf lettuce or beefsteak tomatoes -- that have been raised in our neck of the woods.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, like waiting a winter (and also a drizzly spring) and then spying a strawberry -- a perfect, juicy, red-through-the-middle strawberry -- waiting to be adopted at the grocery store. Except, perhaps, for a hammock afternoon.

"Let's see," I said. "We need canning jars. And lids. And Certo. And sugar. And a new blender to make the smoothies. And some chocolate and ice cream and shortcake cups."

I was making a list as fast as my hand could write.

"Wow," said my husband. "You sure have to stock up on the supplies when strawberry season arrives."

Got that, I told him, grabbing my keys. And raspberries are due up next.