Yesterday I was back again at Ten Apple Farm, a diversified homestead in Gray run by my good friend Margaret Hathaway and her husband Karl Schatz, this time teaching a class on making and canning strawberry jam. Margaret and I had been in touch several times by phone during the couple of days prior to the class to figure out how best to handle an unexpected issue: no more local strawberries. Yes, you heard right–it was not even July 10, and strawberry season in southern Maine was officially over for the year. Broadturn farm’s organic strawberry fields had long since closed for the season, there were no strawberries to be found at our local farmer’s market, and all the nearby, conventional-pick-your-own strawberry operations had shut their doors as well. I called Rosemont Market–a small, local grocery specializing in Maine-grown foods–and they didn’t have any. Margaret even checked with farm stands quite a bit further north, hoping that it might be the tail end of the growing season there, but with no luck. When we planned the class back in March we scheduled it to occur during local strawberry season of course, and indeed I can’t ever remember berries ending so early in the summer. I tend to think of the Fourth of July as being somewhere around the height of the season, not the end of it. But this year, due to to our unusually warm winter and early spring, Strawberry season–like many other seasonal things–arrived early this year. So, what were our choices? Cancelling wasn’t a good option, and switching to blueberry or raspberry jam was risky, since it was questionable if we’d be able to find those locally yet, so early in their seasons. So, that brought us to….grocery store strawberries from California? In the end, that was our only option, and that’s what we went with. The funny thing was that for all of the stressing Margaret and I did over this issue, when I showed up on class day with six plastic boxes of berries from California, no one in the class really seemed to mind. That, or they were just being polite. While the store-boughts didn’t come close to local berries in terms of fresh-eating flavor, they were OK for jam….and they certainly looked pretty.