Monday, May 17, 2010

Red, red strawberry season

It’s that time of year when I taste a little bit of heaven every time I pluck another plump, juicy berry from our strawberry patch. Several years ago we planted three varieties of strawberries in two raised beds. Raised beds are wonderful to work in. As you pick, or weed, you can sit on the edge to do the work, which I find much more comfortable than kneeling or squatting in a row.

We started picking berries about two weeks ago, seemingly sooner than several friends. We must have a variety that produces early, or as Jim says, maybe we just love our strawberries a whole lot so they arrive more promptly. I do try to keep them weeded in the spring so the stray growth doesn't rob the strawberries of the nutrients they need.

The rain has blessed us by coming at the right time to make the berries big but still tasty. Garden berries are so much better than the bland containers of red fruits you buy in the grocery. When picked at the height of their ripeness, they don’t need any sugar because they are innately so sweet.

But speaking of those grocery containers, I save them for picking and storing berries. I gently pull mine from the plant and put them directly into the container as they will stay fresh longer without washing them. Save that until just before you want to eat them.

So far, our strawberries have found their way into:

Breakfast yogurt mix (strawberries, plain yogurt and nuts—when you mix it up yourself you avoid the high fructose corn syrup and additional calories)
Strawberry Muffins
Chocolate-covered strawberries
Strawberry shortcake
Strawberry jam

Jim made the first batch of jam last night. It’s a feast for the eyes with its beautiful color, and the way it scents the house is another bonus. Some of it turned out to be more like syrup than jam, but that’s not a problem. We’ll use it on ice cream and pancakes. I rarely eat pancakes without fruit to top them.

Later this week, I might try a breakfast pizza with strawberries for my writing students. Little did they know when they asked for pizza (first thing in the morning) what I might conjure up!

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