Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fruit of the Month: June

The Delectable, Delicate Strawberry.

A true sign of how strange the weather has been this spring is the late arrival of strawberries. They only really started showing their luscious red faces at market a couple of weeks ago… so technically, this very tardy post is right in the middle-ish/end of the season. Forgive me: I’ve been to busy eating them to write about them.

I think we all have some sort of special memory associated with strawberries. Whether it was your grandma’s strawberry shortbread, waiting impatiently for the first Oregon berries of the season (something not crunchy and white inside from *cough* California), Tess of the D’Ubervilles naughtily nibbling the delicate fruit in your high school English class, or perhaps the dreamy lyrics of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” the strawberry tends to have a mythic persona. The first fresh fruit of the season (if you don’t count rhubarb, which is technically a vegetable anyhow), it oozes sweetness and promises of warmer weather and the start of a succession of delicious berries that will carry you all the way to fall. Lovely.

My most prominent memories of strawberries are the mornings that my mom got us kids up really early (okay, it wasn’t that early, but it was the start of summer break—whatever happened to sleeping in?) to go pick berries at Jaquith’s Farm. It’s always awkward, picking strawberries. When you’re little you have to crouch down in between the rows and untangle the berries from their lush foliage. Later, when your legs are longer, you learn the method of straddling the row—greatly increasing your yields and the soreness of your back the day after you pick. I also remember the slightly icky feeling of too many berries before breakfast. Funny how that was immediately erased by a bowl of fresh berries and cream when we got home…

So strawberries are a nostalgic fruit, and also one full of promise. They are also fleeting, so get out there and pick (or buy) to your hearts content! Lay by a little early summer ambrosia for some day in December when it is truly dreary outside, and I guarantee you won’t remember how sore your back was.

The particulars:

Strawberry season—This varies greatly depending on variety and, of course, weather. Historically, I think the last week of May or first week of June was a good time to start looking. These days, we have to be more patient, with them arriving in the middle or even toward the end of the month. Also keep an eye out for ever-bearing berries! They can be found clear into the fall!

Delectable varieties—Did you know that varieties of strawberry vary significantly by region? Here in Oregon, varieties of historical significance include Hoods and Bentons. New ones are arriving all the time. My favorite this season has been Honeye.

Where to find them
—At the farmer’s market! I’ve also spotted ones from local farms at Roths and Harvest Fresh in McMinnville. Also, u-pick and picked flats for sale are available at Bernards Farm, Farmer Johns, and Sweet Oregon Berry. Have a favorite u-pick place? If you’re willing to sacrifice secrecy, share it in the comments!

—Check out the Recipes page (click on the tab above) for a couple of my favorite strawberry recipes. Feel free to share yours in the comments!


Adeline said...

Hi, so here I am in Yamhilll county wondering where these lovely u-pick places you are referring to are to share any details? Strawberry farms aren't known for their amazing web presences...

Slow Food Yamhill County said...

Hi Adeline. Below is the best list I have found of u-pick locations (it isn't super up-to-date, so you might have to do some calling around). Details for Bernards Farm, Farmer John's and Sweet Oregon Berry can all be found online, just search for them. They are also all readily visible from the highway (18 heading toward the coast for Bernards & Farmer Johns, intersection of 18 and 99 near Dayton for Sweet Oregon Berry). You can also just drive around Grand Island in Dayton and pull over at the u-pick signs! Good luck!