This is the first year we have successfully grown strawberries and there is nothing better than eating your own red, ripe strawberries. Especially when they are grown in Oregon. Sweet, delicious, plentiful … and they last for maybe two days in the fridge before you must finish them over ice cream or make jam.
I think the photos do justice to our strawberries, as well as the creeping roses cut from our wild hedgerow that every winter demands a pruner with an artistic bent to curl the new stalks in and out of the fence it holds up. Okay, the vase isn’t half bad either. It’s one of my treasures picked up on holiday in the Andalucian area of Spain, a place I always wanted to see after reading Driving Over Lemons, the first story to reveal a common thread of happenings on farms where animals, water, and nature challenge the human psyche from time to time.
This was not our first strawberry patch, but it was our first successful strawberry patch because this time we designed it with moles in mind. Farmer Greg took the tractor and dug out a hole a foot deep, by about 10 x 30 feet. We stretched hard cloth across the entire bottom and sides, one of the more difficult things I have done since hard cloth is actually wire mesh. Once the barrier was down, we filled our bed with a combination of sand, compost and fill and then planted our strawberry plants, some garlic, celery, and asparagus. That was two years ago.
Finally, this year the strawberries started to produce and every day I went out there were more, bigger, better fruits. We challenged our collection method by not putting in rows, but I can have pretty good balance when I have to creep into the depths of a strawberry patch for the most perfect, juiciest, red, ripe strawberries.
With such a haul and not enough time to eat it all fresh, we came up with a variety of iterations for its use. Annie made strawberry ice cream and strawberry yogurt in our fancy new machine given as a Christmas present by my mother several years ago. I think she figured if you live in the country, you should have an easy way to make ice cream. Well, here was our excuse, because other than the first summer we lived on the farm when Annie made fresh ice cream most days and I gained about 10 pounds, we had left the thing in the box for another time.
I also made some strawberry jam which is one of my favorites, right up there with raspberry jam. When it came down to skimming off the froth that forms while cooking down the fruit and pectin, I couldn’t face losing any of the product, so canned the jam in a less than perfect way…except it tastes just fine!
What a harbinger of summer. Sure, you can get strawberries at other times of the year from other places on the planet, but if you want to put any energy into eating what grows seasonally and locally, then you will be eating strawberries from Oregon near the beginning of July…only.
And, if you find yourself eating these strawberries with a young child by your side, pull out one of my favorite childrens’ books, The Little Mouse, the Red, Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear. It will give you a new appreciation for the fruit and how we imagine it.
Photos: (top) strawberries in a basket; (bottom) rose hedgerow near the chicken yard
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2009 Scottie Jones.