What’s cooking? Grilled chicken caesar salads.
It’s far too hot to fire up the stove today, so we’re grilling. In fact, after my husband got a grill for his recent birthday, I don’t think we’ve cooked more than one meal indoors. But the real story is tonight’s dessert: angel food cake with fresh local strawberries, or a bowl of strawberry ice cream, or strawberries dipped in chocolate. I haven’t decided yet. We’re swimming in strawberries around here today.
That’s because, yesterday, my husband and I went strawberry picking. Strawberry season is short, and it is upon us. We headed out to a local family farm in rural central New York and picked just under eleven pounds of bright red beauties. A ruby-red, sun-warmed strawberry straight off the vine tastes like summer.
The fields were amazing–they seemed to extend endlessly to the mountains beyond. And the farmers had a great system: they lined between the rows with straw (hence the name, strawberries), they wrapped each mounded row in plastic, and they had an irrigation system. All of these meant that neither the berries nor we pickers were ever sitting in mud or water. Strawberries are picky like that. And these little beauties were as perfect as I’ve ever seen. And incredibly abundant. The spring was wet and cold this year, and summer was slow in coming. But the strawberries withstood the less-than-ideal conditions, and boy were they putting on a show.
See what I mean? No mold, no mush, no dirt. Just happy perfect berries. Billions of them.
Okay, so I didn’t count, but there were a lot.
We picked over 100 berries. Well over. I just stopped counting at 100.
They’re a large variety–not the little guys you often see at strawberry farms–so our bounty weighed just under 11 pounds. Yowza!
And I only ate one while picking. It took a lot of restraint to resist the shining happy fruits. Or are they drupes? Or are drupes fruits?
In any case, they were beautiful, and I had a lot of cooking to do when we brought our abundant harvest home. I made two kinds of jam: a freezer jam and a balsamic strawberry jam. I made strawberry ice cream. I made hot fudge, because these berries screamed out “dip me in chocolate!!” I sliced berries up for angel food cake. I sliced them on my oatmeal. I froze a bunch so as to revisit summer in the cold, grey winter.
I am determined to be better about the local growing seasons and pick-your-own crops this year. Eating foods not only in season, but straight from the farm is a powerful reminder of what good, wholesome, fresh food should be. It’s also a great way to support and participate in local agriculture. Few things are more important. And anyway, those woody berries you find year-round in the supermarket taste like cardboard in comparison. They are hardly deserving of the name “strawberry.”
Strawberry season: check! Also, yum.