Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Kitchen Gardener Cook
Before we explore strawberries and fabulous recipes…some newsy notes:
- I simply could not resist the above picture and had to show it to you. Did you know these guys are neighbors to Homestead Gardens Davidsonville store? Maybe we can arrange a meeting. At Eco-Goats, when the goats are ‘hired’ the professionals unleash these vegetarian workers to dine on invasive species and remove them from your kingdom.
- Fascinating and well done – the New Cuban Agriculture-Homegrown
- FRESH Produce-NO EXCUSE-Mom should have a fresh dinner!
Homestead Gardens will be getting in fresh produce for the weekend in both locations:
- baby white and red potatoes
- English peas
- spring onions
A fresh, ripe strawberry is succulent- red, robust, and juicy — a very sexy thing. It tastes nothing like the sugary, fakey, strawberry-flavored stuff. In fact, strawberries fresh from the garden don’t even resemble the durable well-traveled huge berries you find in supermarkets. There’s a hint of grass and flowers — what the wine afficiondos call terroir — plus your grand berry sweetness avoids being cloying because those teensy seeds stippling the outside of the berry lend just the right astringency, texture and fiber.
Peak season for the flavorful but somewhat finicky variety is end of May through mid-June, with supplies continuing until October. Other varieties such as Seascape will have a steady supply through spring and summer. The strawberries I bought from Homestead Gardens last year are just developing berries, however some of the leaves are the size of a saucer (to a teacup).
How to store: The best way to store berries is to arrange them, unwashed, in a single layer in a paper towel-lined plastic container. Cover them and store in the refrigerator up to a week. Wash just before using.
History: Strawberries have a history that goes back over 2,200 years. Strawberries grew wild in Italy as long ago as 234 B.C. and were discovered in Virginia by the first Europeans when their ships landed there in 1588.
Early settlers in Massachusetts enjoyed eating strawberries grown by local American Indians who cultivated strawberries as early as 1643. After 1860 strawberries were widely grown in many parts of the country.
Strawberries have been grown in California since the early 1900’s. Today, over 25,000 acres of strawberries are planted each year in California and the state produces over 80% of the strawberries grown in the United States. On average, each acre produces about 21 tons of strawberries and the state produces one billion pounds of strawberries a year!
Claim for the Name: There are many explanations, some believe that the name came from the practice of placing straw around the growing plants for protection, others believe the name originated over 1000 years ago because of the runners which spread outward from the plant. The name may have been derived from the Anglo-Saxon verb to strew (spread) and the fruit came to be known as streabergen, straberry, streberie, straibery, straubery, and finally, “STRAWBERRY’ to the English.
Strawberry Cream Fruit Pops
Makes 6 to 8 pops
This juicy refreshing recipe is not only easy but you can make it even healthier by trading yogurt for the sour cream. In that case you may ned to increase the sugar a bit and decrease the lemon juice.
In a blender, whirl 2 cups rinsed, hulled strawberries until smooth. Push through a fine strainer into a 1-quart glass measure; discard seeds. Return berry purée to blender and whirl in 1/2 cup light sour cream, 2 to 3 tablespoons sugar (to taste), and 2 teaspoons lemon juice until smooth.
Pour fruit mixture into 6 to 8 juice bar molds (see notes). Attach covers firmly and insert sticks, leaving 1 1/2 to 2 inches of each sticking out. Set molds in freezer, making sure they’re level and upright, and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours, or up to 2 weeks.
To unmold, run warm water over the molds up to the rim, just until pops are released from sides, 5 to 15 seconds. Remove the covers and pull out the pops.
Layered Pops: To create two-tone pops, make two different recipes and use twice as many molds. Pour one mixture into all the molds and freeze until firm to the touch on top, about 45 minutes, then pour the second mixture over the first, and freeze completely.
Strawberry Meringue Cake
Serves 12 to 14
This taste-of-spring cake, courtesy of Morgan family matriarch Tante Irene, is a take on a Pavlova which is a large filled meringue shell. The meringue can be baked the evening before serving, but be sure the weather is dry when you make this cake – if it’s rainy the meringue will get gummy and weep.
- 8 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 3 baskets strawberries (about 10 ounces each)
- granulated sugar, to taste
- 1 pint whipping cream
In the mixer bowl of a stand mixer, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the 1 1/2 cups sugar, the vinegar and the vanilla. Continue beating until egg whites are stiff. (You can also do this with a hand-held mixer, but it will take longer.)
Preheat the oven to 250°. Scrape the egg white mixture into an ungreased 9- or 10-inch springform pan. Gently press the mixture down with a rubber spatula to minimize potential air pockets from forming. Bake 1 to 2 hours, until top is lightly browned. Turn oven off and leave meringue in the oven several hours or overnight to dry out.
Remove meringue from oven. Run a dinner knife around the edge of the meringue to loosen it from the sides of the pan, but do not remove the ring. Use the same knife to lift off the browned top of the meringue – it will come off in pieces of various sizes. Put the pieces, browned side up, in a single layer on a plate or baking sheet; set aside.
Several hours before serving, assemble the cake. Slice or cut the strawberries about 1/4-inch thick. Place in a bowl, and sprinkle very lightly with sugar to sweeten; depending on the sweetness of the berries. Set aside.
Whip cream with a mixer and add sugar to taste.
Spread a third of the whipped cream over the meringue. Top with half the berries, leaving most of the accumulated berry juices in the bowl. Top with another third of the whipped cream, then more berries, saving some to serve over the cake slices, if desired. End with a layer of whipped cream. Arrange the browned pieces of meringue on top, trying to cover most of the whipped cream. The pieces will not completely cover it all, which is fine.
Tent the cake with foil (use toothpicks to keep the foil from touching the cake) and refrigerate several hours, until ready to serve. Refrigerate any leftover strawberries and their juices to serve with the cake.
When ready to serve, remove the cake from the refrigerator and place on a cake plate. Carefully remove and lift off the ring from the springform pan. Cut into thin wedges to serve, and drizzle each piece with some of the strawberry juices and top with any remaining strawberries.