The beginning of strawberry season coincides with the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacations. For many years, one of the first things we did when the kids were home on vacation was go strawberry picking. When I think of strawberries, I think of those sunny, hot days. You could kneel down with your basket in the straw between the rows of plants and feel the sun warming your very soul. The best strawberries are the ones plucked, still sun-warmed, out in the field.
My kids have all grown up and gone their separate ways, and it has been a cool, rainy summer. Still, I wanted to fit in at least one trip to pick strawberries. I visited Dentz Orchard and Berry Farm just as the strawberry season was giving way to raspberry picking. The girl who showed me to the field was surprised that I still wanted strawberries, and indeed, I had the field to myself. I thought I might have to hunt for good berries, but such was not the case. There were still lots of ripe strawberries waiting to be picked and I wondered what would happen to them all. Would they be harvested by commercial pickers? In addition to offering pick-your-own, Dentz also sells to commercial markets.
Strawberries are available in supermarkets here pretty much year round, imported from California during the winter months. The berries do have considerable appeal in the dark days of winter, but I find they are disappointing. There’s just not that same sunny ambiance that comes with picking your own. Since I read Eric Schlosser’s discussion of the exploitation of migrant workers in his book Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market, I have passed up winter strawberries. I can’t say I miss them. They’re more of a treat when you buy them locally, in season. I don’t mean to suggest Canada doesn’t exploit Mexican workers too. Most large operations employ such workers to pick fruit, though I know little of their situation. I expect working in Canada is a double-edged sword, the need to make a living balanced against the negatives of a disrupted family life.
The best way to enjoy strawberries is just to wash them and eat them fresh, perhaps with a little milk or cream. Second choice, if you can resist eating them long enough, is to bake a strawberry pie. Here’s my favorite Strawberry Pie recipe:
Prepare 1 single pie crust. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Filling: Wash and cut up 4 cups of strawberries. Mix with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of flour, and 1 tablespoon of corn starch. Place in pie shell.
Topping: Combine 3/4 cup flour and 3/4 cup sugar and a pinch of nutmeg. Cut in 3/8 cup of butter until mixture is crumbly. Spread over top of filling.
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue baking for another 40 minutes.
Allow to cool before cutting. Delicious!