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Posts Tagged ‘organic strawberries’

umrella hat

The other rainy night, we had a little casual dinner party with my parents’ best friends of four decades, who happen now to live on the same long dirt driveway in Norwich, Vermont.  I’d been wanting to make a recipe from one of my favorite bloggers, Tribeca Yummy Mummy, for roasted tomato pasta with scallops.  It was amazingly delicious, especially with picked-that-day organic sungolds and grape tomatoes and basil.  Here are the tomatoes, slicked with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, ready to get roasty:

roast tomat

We had spicy greens in a salad, and then a berry crumble.  I like making crumble, because it’s so easy.  You don’t even need to look at a recipe for the topping if you just remember “it’s all 1.”

Mixed Berry Crumble

Topping:
1 c. flour
1 c. sugar (mix brown and white)
1 stick butter, cut into small nobs
1 tsp. salt
1 handful sliced almonds (or walnuts, or oats)

Filling:

3-4 c. mixed berries (I used blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries)
1/3 c. sugar
a sprinkle of almond extract

Preheat oven to 400.  Mix the filling in the baking pan. Frozen berries are ok.

With your fingertips, blend the topping until it all clings together in clumps.  Sprinkle the topping evenly over the filling. Bake for 40 minutes or so.

berry crumble

Get it before it’s gone!

crumble

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It’s summer.  It’s hot.  The fruit is ripe.  But what the heck, let’s fire up the oven.

We have Shiro plums, the mild little yellow variety which grew originally in Japan, and now grows all over the place here.

shiso

These plums are from Dummerston, Vermont.  (The name brings to mind Fort Dummer, near Brattleboro, where we used to go cross country skiing, and where my Dad would release the squirrels he’d caught in his “Have-a-Heart” trap.  These were crazed, ferocious squirrels that chewed our wooden siding and clung to the screens of our dining room windows while we ate dinner.)

Back on topic here… plums make a scrumptious rustic galette.  I had a helper this morning making pastry.  A pinch of salt:

J baking

And a demonstration of the frissage technique, which spreads and flattens those yummy bits of butter, providing the basis for flakiness (push with the heels, fold with the fingertips, repeat):

frissage

We also have chopped rhubarb and strawberries in the freezer–remains from an earlier season.  My sister, Bridget, has always loved strawberry-rhubarb pie.  We always thought her red hair and freckles predestined her to be a strawberry lover: strawberry ice cream, strawberry shortcake, strawberry-rhubarb pie, strawberries on cereal, strawberry lip balm, the list goes on.  She’s moving to North Carolina this week, where strawberries and rhubarb will be distant memories.  I think I’ll make her that pie.

And serve it warm with local vanilla ice cream, of course.

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wagon

Strawberries were the totems of childhood today, at Cedar Circle Farm’s 7th annual strawberry festival.  Of the milling, stooping, picking, licking population, about two-thirds were fewer than four feet tall.  Many wore the totem on their shirts, hats, or cheeks. The folks at Cedar Circle make this day as much a celebration of childhood as of strawberries and local food in general.  There were three horse-drawn wagons, a mural-drawing section of the barn wall, a coloring station, face-painting teenage girls, a sandbox, strawberry smoothies and shortcake, coffee for the parents, puppetry, kite-making, tractors to sit on, and live music.  And, of course, picking.

tractors

wagon ride

We hit the face-painting table first; the boys both got trucks.

my son, the sceptic

my son, the sceptic

cheek truck

Then we walked around the food stations.  There were local sausages from Hogwash Farm on the grill, organic pizzas cooking in a wood-oven on wheels, and strawberry shortcake with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream from Strafford Organic Creamery.  In honor of this berry, which has been cultivated since medieval times, everything was very forward-looking.  The food was served on compostable dishes with compostable utensils; there was a complex trash station.  Near the coloring table there was a photo-and-text display (a low-tech, stop-time PowerPoint presentation hung with clothespins) about “The Real Costs of Cheap Food”, which included descriptions of chemicals that flow and leach from non-organic farms into ground water, lakes, and rivers, and a definition of food miles (how far a food travels from farm to table, with the fossil fuels required a big consideration), and some charming spelling errors.  There was also a photo-narrative of strawberry growing, from bed preparation during the winter to picking in June.  This display included lots of pictures with hay around the edges, in the middle, and present as a general tone (hay keeps down the weeds) as well as shots of very tan, lightly clad interns happily working the dirt.

real cost

Cedar Circle grows eight varieties of strawberries, and an array of vegetables—all certified organic.

and flowers

and flowers

My mom and I, with the occasional help of Jack and his cousin Jeremiah who preferred sitting on tractors, and my sister, Bridget, who helped them up and down the tractor steps, picked four pounds of berries.  We chose two varieties: Wendy, known by its petite size and light sweetness, and Mesabi, which is bigger, and almost raspberry-like in flavor. The plants were so high that lifting the leaves to look for spots of red was like opening the curtains—in a doll’s house.  The pleasure of discovery became addictive.  It’s hard to stop, even when the basket’s full!

Strawberries fresh off the stem, warmed by the sun, melted into juice in an instant in our mouths.  There were many worshippers.

worshippers

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My big old aluminum flea market colander is bursting with berries in the fridge, and I’ve already had strawberries with lunch yesterday, for dessert last night, breakfast this morning, and lunch today.  What will we do with all of these berries?

Any other time, it wouldn’t be a challenge, but our rental house is in a strange state. We’re leaving for New England in a week, and for Rome in about two months, so we’ve been packing.  Some of the boxes already in storage contain all of my baking dishes and appliances.  But I had to do something with these berries!  I hadn’t packed a few things, including a bit of flour and sugar, and an odd-sized round Pyrex, so the task became obvious: galette!
galette

Strawberry Galette

The sweet pastry recipe I like best is Nancy Silverton’s, from her wonderful Pastry from La Brea Bakery.  Since I’ve already packed the cookbooks, I dredged it out of my memory, and cut it in half.  Roughly, it goes like this:

Combine in a food processor or in a bowl with a pastry cutter:
1 ¼ cup flour
2 tbs. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
7 tbs. butter
Mix together in a small bowl:
1 large egg yolk
½ tsp. vanilla
2-3 tsp. milk
Then mix the wets into the dries until just combined, working the dough lightly with the pastry cutter.  Turn it out onto the counter and fold it and push it to flatten the butter bits, then shape it into a disc, roll it out to the right size, and chill it.

While it chills, let the berries steep in sugar for awhile.  Jack and I cut berries (he used a little cheese knife) and tossed them in a bowl with ¼ cup of sugar and ¼ cup of flour, a few gratings of nutmeg, and a splash of almond extract.

Normally, a galette would be made on a sheet, but we had only this casserole, and it worked out well since the berries were so juicy.  Now I have to go get some cream!

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ready to pick

ready to pick

A month or so ago, I made a big deal about buying only organic strawberries.  Today, though, my friend Sharyn and I took Mimi and Jack strawberry picking at a little farm in Lafayette (pronounced, defiantly, La-FIE-et), where the only sign is a big slab of particle board with “U-Pick” and a big strawberry painted on it.  In other words, there are no visible declarations of their farming practices, but you can tell right away that this is not a “Green Chem-Lawn” type of operation.  It smelled like grass and mud and strawberries. One of the owners told Sharyn, “we try not to put too much stuff on them”—meaning chemicals. Compared to the berry farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where we went last year because it was on the way home from Jack’s school, and which appeared to be a perfect paradise of spotless leaves and giant berries, but where you could smell the chemicals, this farm today was a paradise of “imperfection.”  They use black plastic to control weeds, and insects to control insects.  Bugs and slugs and buzzing things were busy throughout the rows.  When a tiny local farm produces sweet juicy berries with the help of ladybugs, I don’t quibble about minimal chemical counts.
berries
Jack would wander far down the rows, and then run back triumphantly when he found a ripe berry.  He also found some “ticklers”—tall grasses with tufts on top—and put them to use:
tickling
Then Jack and Mimi found a little Jeep and decided to drive “to California… or maybe just a short trip to Kroger’s.”

see ya!

see ya!

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Over the next few months, I’ll be lucky enough to follow strawberry season north, as we go from Alabama, through New York and Massachusetts, to Vermont, where we’ll look forward to going to the strawberry festival at Cedar Circle Farm in Thetford.  Here in Auburn, we had our first local organic strawberries yesterday, from Miles Berry Farm, in Baxley, Georgia.  Jack found a Siamese twin:

img_0810

Kids love strawberries, and for that reason, it’s particularly important to buy the organic ones.  Strawberries are at the top of the list of “the dirty dozen”—the fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated with pesticide, herbicide, and fungicide residues.  Here’s what Cindy Burke writes, in her meticulously researched book To Buy or Not to Buy Organic:

Some organic growers joke that conventionally grown strawberries are so full of chemicals, you could grind them up and use them as pesticide.  But pesticides are no laughing matter.  Sixty-five different pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides are registered for use on strawberries.
Strawberries are the most chemically intensive crop in California. Most commercial strawberry growers use methyl bromide, a toxic, ozone-depleting chemical, to eradicate all fungus, nematodes, microorganisms, and weeds, effectively killing every living thing in the soil where strawberry plants are grown.  For the remaining growth cycle, the berry plants are drip-fed chemical fertilizers.  Because methyl bromide can cause poisoning, neurological damage, and reproductive harm, the EPA classifies it as a Toxicity Category I compound, which is a classification reserved for the most deadly substances it regulates.
Nonorganic strawberries are highly likely to contain pesticide residue after harvest.  When the Pesticide Data Program releases its annual list of produce samples with residues that exceed tolerance levels, strawberries appear more often than any other fruit or vegetable. (84-5)

Wow!

Perhaps the best way to enjoy (organic!) strawberries is just to bite into them and slurp up the juice.  During rhubarb season, clearly, it’s pie time.  When I visited Spain in high school, the three sisters in my host family ate strawberries and cream for dessert every day.

But strawberries can be delicious additions to savory fare as well.  A classic salad consists of arugula tossed with goat cheese, strawberries, and a tangy vinaigrette.  A surprising appetizer can be made with a variation on this theme.  Here’s a little recipe:

Toast thin slices of baguette and drizzle a few drops of olive oil on them.
Spread goat cheese on the slices.
Top with thin slices of strawberry and a few leaves of rosemary.

When I make this later today, aside from the bread and olive oil, everything will be local. I’ll use my Georgia berries, goat cheese from Fromagerie Belle Chèvre in Elkmont, Alabama (217 miles away), and the rosemary Jack and I planted out back.

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