Strawberry season is finally here! For those of you who have tried local berries, you know that nothing at the grocery store can compare. Locally grown and freshly picked strawberries are a real treat. Along with strawberries, other fresh produce like broccoli, baby potatoes, peppers and tomatoes are just starting to become available at the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market, along with different types of lettuce, bok choy, rhubarb and other fresh produce.
Full of vitamin C and antioxidants, strawberries are very good for you. However, strawberries are number 5 on the 2012 dirty dozen list, which is a list of the most pesticide contaminated fruits and vegetables, so it’s worthwhile to buy organic or from local growers who don’t use as many harmful chemicals on their produce. Either way, be sure to wash your berries before eating them.
Strawberries are very perishable and only last a couple days before a major decrease in their vitamin C content and antioxidants, so it is best to buy them locally when they’ve just been picked. While strawberries can be stored to last a few days longer, they are best tasting and best for you if consumed within a few days of picking. Once picked, strawberries do not ripen any further, so if you’re picking your own strawberries, only pick the ripest berries and handle with care. Any berries that are damaged while picking will spoil faster than the rest.
If sorting through your berries, be sure to discard any with any mold, soft spots or other damage as these will ruin the berries stored around them. If storing them, they should be stored in a very cold fridge, just a few degrees above freezing to help preserve them. They also store best in a sealed or mostly sealed container. If possible, they should be cooked and canned or frozen immediately after picking. To freeze them, rinse the berries and drain well (or gently pat dry with a towel), remove the stem and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze until fully frozen and then transfer into a sealable plastic bag and keep in a deep freeze for up to a year.
We love to just eat our fresh berries as they are, but strawberries make delicious and easy to make jam, fruit leather and compote, and are delicious baked into cakes, quick breads and muffins or pies. They can also be sliced into salads, blended into smoothies, frozen into popsicles or homemade ice cream or stirred into yogurt.
Fresh Strawberry Pie (makes 1 9” pie)
Crust (makes 2 9” crusts; one can be kept in the freezer for later use)
1/2 C butter
1/2 C brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 3/4 C whole wheat pastry flour from soft wheat, plus more for rolling
Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the salt and egg and blend until smooth. Add the flour and blend together just until everything is combined (the dough will still be crumbly, but no loose flour should remain). Divide into two pieces and press into 2 1/2” thick disks. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate one hour, or place in the freezer for 20 minutes.
When ready, remove one disk, unwrap, sprinkle generously with flour and roll out to between 1/4” and 1/8” and big enough to come up only 1” on the sides of a 9” pie place. Sprinkle with flour frequently to prevent sticking. Gently lift the dough up and place in the pie plate (if it rips, it can easily be pressed back together). Press into the pie plate, poke all over the dough with a fork and place in the fridge or freezer for 10 minutes or until ready to use.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the pie plate and unbaked crust from the fridge or freezer, place a sheet of parchment paper over the dough and fill to the top of the dough with pie weights or dry beans. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Take the pie plate out of the oven, remove the pie weights and paper and return to the oven for 8-10 minutes until golden around the edges and dry in the center. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
6 C fresh strawberries, divided
1/2 C honey
1/4 C cold water
3 tbsp cornstarch
Measure out 2 cups of whole berries and mash with the back of a fork. Place in a small pot with the honey. Heat over medium heat until boiling. Mix together the water and cornstarch in a small cup until the cornstarch is completely combined. Pour into the hot strawberry mixture and stir immediately and continue to stir until completely thickened and returned to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool 10 minutes while preparing the rest of the berries. Remove the stems from the remaining 4 cups of strawberries and cut berries in half.
Once the cooked filling has cooled slightly, pour about 1/2 cup in the bottom of the cooled pie crust. Spread out and start placing halved strawberries and tightly as possible in a flat layer, using the larger berries for the bottom layer. Press berries into the filling. Once the first layer is completely filled, pour half (or a little more) of the remaining cooked filling over top of the berries and spread out with the back of a spoon. Add the rest of the halved berries to the top of the pie, starting at the middle and placing them as closely as possible together.
Once all the strawberries are used (they may not reach the edge of the pie), pour the rest of the cooked filling over the berries and spread with the back of a spoon. Place the pie in the fridge for 1-2 hours before serving with whipped cream.
The Creston Valley Farmers’ Market runs at its usual time and place, from 8 a.m.-noon beside Millennium Park on Saturdays. In addition, there will be a mid-week market starting July 5 and running every Thursday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. behind the Creston Valley Chamber of Commerce. The Market is also looking for two volunteers to conduct two important surveys for the market on July 7 and 12. If you’d like to volunteer, call 250-254-1594 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Heidi Bjarnason is a Creston Valley mom and blogger. For more recipes, ideas, pictures and kid friendly ideas and food, visit Fooddoodles.com.