There are people living in other parts of the country who actually believe that strawberries come from California or Florida or Mexico.

There are people living in other parts of the country who actually believe that strawberries come from California or Florida or Mexico.

They believe the strawberry season spans February through, well, December. The required pairing with said berries is copious amounts of sugar to "bring out" their natural sweetness. And a sturdy fork always is necessary in any mashing maneuver to tame their bred-for-the-road firmness.

Pity those people.

And then get ready for the real strawberry season — a season so frustratingly short that it should never be taken lightly. Not here in the Willamette Valley, where our strawberries are considered the culinary equivalent to precious gems. That's because our berries have been bred for flavor, color and juiciness — not travel.

They don't keep as long as those sturdier, jet-lagged varieties, however. That means from a period typically beginning sometime around NOW and rarely extending beyond the second week of July, real strawberry lovers lucky enough to live in Oregon are thinking, breathing and (of course!) eating real strawberries.

There's nothing you can do to alter nature's cycle. So you'll just have to make the most of it. I'm including some fresh-eating recipes to get you started or, perhaps, to simply head you in a new direction in your ongoing search for ways to appreciate our wonderful berries while they're available.

Food preservers, of course, have an edge. They can extend the season of the treasured Oregon strawberry all the way into next winter — and beyond — with just a bit of effort in the next few weeks.

It doesn't have to be extreme. Freezing berries (that are simply rinsed, dried and hulled) in single layers (with or without a coating of sugar) on cookie sheets, then packing them into freezer containers and tossing them back into the freezer, will capture that Oregon berry flavor for up to 12 months. Then you've got a cache of flavor-packed gems to toss into your morning blender drink or to whip up a fabulous berry puree.

With just a slightly greater time commitment, you can assemble uncooked strawberry jams for the freezer. If you've never done this, track down a recipe packed in any liquid or powdered commercial pectin (you'll want to peruse the accompanying list of tips before you get started).

And then, for the most treasured offering of all, there are strawberry preserves. The genuine deal. Succulently sweet Oregon berries, combined in a preserving kettle with sugar and lemon juice and cooked just to the moment where they turn from sugared fruit to exquisite preserves.

The point is that now, when Oregon strawberries are finally ripe for the picking, it's time to bring them into your kitchen and celebrate their brief but exquisite impact on your palate and psyche.

Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at