BaltimOregon to Maine

Locavore Cooking with Southern Efficiency and Northern Charm

Posts Tagged ‘strawberries

Local Strawberries: Worth Waiting For (Now Could We Just Get Some Sun)

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Finally succumbed to fresh strawberries from the greenhouses at Denison Farms¬†at the Corvallis Wednesday Market. They’re still tart due to lack of sun but more vivid than the still-good organic clamshell Driscolls from California I caved for at the welcome oasis of Metropolitan Market while camped out at Seattle Children’s Hospital last week. My uncovered berries in the garden are just flowers that haven’t yet produced, though I did pick a few samples from nearby test plots on OSU’s campus.

The strawberries and some neglected spinach inspired an impromptu lunch today. I macerated the strawberries (with a touch of sugar) in balsamic and black pepper, chopped up some sweet sugar snap peas (also from Denison’s), crumbled some Rogue Oregon Blue on top and dressed the greens with a balsamic-honey-shallot-Dijon-olive oil vinaigrette. All it lacked was some toasted hazelnuts for crunch. Here’s to strawberry season! I can’t wait to take Theo back to pick strawberries at organic Fairfield Farm near Southtown.

Written by baltimoregon

May 24, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Berries and Curd

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Bon Appetit's Lime Tart with Blackberries and Blueberries.

Ivy Manning's strawberry shortcake with lemon curd cream.

Okay, okay, I finally posted something pretty and tasty for those of you made squeamish by my last blog post. Berries and tart citrus curds (tangy egg yolk puddings) should be less controversial. Well, not curd perhaps. For a shortcut with the above strawberry shortcake dessert, I might recommend buying some store-bought lemon curd. Instead, I stood over a hot stove (in last week’s heat wave, which even swept northernmost Maine) for 30 minutes, constantly whisking the thickening curd slowly heating in a bowl over a pot of boiling water. But stirring that zesty curd into freshly-whipped whipped cream made for a memorable, albeit rich, shortcake. The citrus in the cream and orange zest in the homemade biscuits (I would add chopped crystallized ginger next time, too) complimented the fragrant local Maine strawberries.

The berries are ripe at the Small Farmers' Project site in Eugene.

It was sad to leave my blueberries, just now ripening on the cane.

Then just two days later, curd turned up again in a berry dessert tonight at dear reader Judy’s house. She made a magnificent lime curd tart with blackberries and blueberries that looked just like the picture that ran with the recipe in Bon Appetit! With no whipped cream, this fruit tart was a considerably lighter dessert, the perfect conclusion to a barbecue on a warm summer night. Best of all, the latter curd takes less time to make, requiring a mere six minutes of whisking instead of 30. This one calls for gauging the curd temperature with an instant-read thermometer, but both curiously instruct you to press plastic wrap onto the surface of the curd while it cools? Does that just ensure it has a smoother texture? That’s one recommendation I ignored. Here’s a good step-by-step guide to making curd from Bon Appetit. I’ll have to ask Portland cookbook author Ivy Manning why the process she outlined in The Farm to Table Cookbook took so much longer.

Speaking of berries, check out my recent radio piece on rare black cap raspberries, which a group of Latino farmers is reintroducing in the Northwest. I’m sorry I didn’t have a chance to make black raspberry ice cream before we ran out of town. Let’s hope there’s an even larger crop for us to bake and can with next year!

Written by baltimoregon

July 10, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Wild, Wild Strawberries

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Tiny wild strawberries foraged in a grassy meadow at Lumos Winery in Philomath/Wren.

The strawberries are just starting to ripen and will hopefully come on in full force once these lingering gray rainy days in Corvallis stop. Though now that I’m writing this from swampy, 90 degree North Carolina this weekend, I appreciate the crisp and refreshingly cool Northwest.

Many are the strawberry recipes I plan to plow into when I return. I especially anticipate roasting over-ripe berries (I remember Ivy Manning some oven-roasted strawberry preserves recipe). Then this strawberry tiramisu tickled my fancy. And then there’s my favorite: good old fashioned strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Unfortunately, most of the berries I planted won’t yield much this year. I’ve only managed to sneak a ripe one or two. Most of the blossoms are supposed to be plucked off the first year, to improve future harvests. Most berries plants and fruit trees force delayed gratification on you.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon a meadow just studded with these fragrant ruby orbs at Lumos Winery near Philomath on Memorial Day. While wine-tasting, I plodded out there in search of the nearly extinct Fender’s Blue Butterfly that lives among the Kincaid Lupine in a rare open stretch. But I’m ashamed to say that from a distance, the precious butterfly looked more plain and moth-like. But the berries underfoot soon captivated me. It’s hard not to smoosh them as you walk since the wild berries grow so close to the ground. The tiny berries are tart yet sweet, with more concentrated flavor and perfume (even when not fully ripe) than our conventional varieties. You’d have to pick a ton of them, though, to have enough for a recipe. Maybe I could gather enough to make that Italian wild strawberry liqueur.

Wild strawberries underfoot.

I planted some wild ones earlier this year, but now I want more. Why don’t we rip up the grass and cover the lawn with wild strawberries? It would be the perfect union of horticulture and wild-crafting. A fusion of gardening and foraging is my ideal. There’s nothing like stumbling upon something valuable growing freely in the wild.

Strawberries integrated into the landscaping in front of a Corvallis home.

Written by baltimoregon

June 4, 2010 at 8:21 am

Beguiled by Berries

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What are those, tomatillos? Hopefully they'll be deep indigo and sweet soon.

Just a strawberry or two to tease us.

Of all the bounty that grows in Oregon, our berries are best. We even have certain varietals–think Marionberries–exclusively developed and grown here. So naturally I’d want to try to cultivate some of these sweet gems in my home garden.

Last summer, let’s just say I didn’t get off to the best start. I bought a hanging strawberry basket that unfortunately dried up, as it got ignored while we were traveling all of July and part of August. I also had two discounted blueberry plants shrivel up when I waited to long to plant them. But a $2 gooseberry from the Habitat for Humanity Restore miraculously survived. It’s only promising about two gooseberries this spring, but that’s a start. Not that I’ve ever cooked with gooseberries. But I hear they make nice pie and jam.

A wee gooseberry or two.

To keep slugs at bay, I’ve got about a half dozen strawberry plants in small pots. The ants still seem to be crawling all over the few ripe owns. Our erratic weather just hasn’t been warm enough to redden them up. Heck, it even hailed last week, and farms suffered the damages. I can see why local growers such as Denison Farms do strawberries in hoop houses. Now I appreciate their labor. And they grow them without pesticides or chemical fertilizers, unlike my once-beloved Baugher’s pick-your-own berry farm in Maryland. When I went out to the Taneytown area farm to report my story for The Baltimore Sun, I remember some whitish and blue chemical residue around their strawberries made those bright red rubies slightly less appetizing.

Evidence of Thursday's brief hailstorm.

At least one of two blueberry plants looks like it will yield a bit of a crop. I dug two scrawny five-year old bushes (can’t remember if they were Bluecrops, Chandlers or Dukes) up from a patch Hazelnut Hill orchard wanted to clear out. Not bad for $5 a piece. But I probably didn’t amend our clay soil enough before planting those shallow rooted things at home. I did try to mix in some acidic mulch to encourage the ground to drain a bit better. Then we had a truck blow some mulch into the area. Hope it wasn’t all for naught. It did pain me to see the honeybees mostly ignore my two bushes in favor of the neighbors’ heartier berries in early May. I planted ours near their border, to encourage cross-pollination. Survival of the fittest, indeed.

Written by baltimoregon

May 24, 2010 at 11:55 pm

Not Your Typical Strawberries and Cream

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Oatmeal shortbread with mascapone cream

Oatmeal shortbread with Mascarpone cream

Craving tangy strawberry and sweet cream taste combination? The Oregonian‘s FOODday feature offers lots of interchangeable, relatively effortless suggestions that go beyond shortcake. I just happened to have picked up Mascarpone cheese at Trader Joe’s, so I made the dark chocolate-flecked cream. And the oatmeal shortbread was simple yet nutty and substantive. You can make the same dough into a crumble or press it into a tart shell. But for some reason tart pans elude me. I’ll stick to the cookies.

Not that there’s anything wrong with shortcake. It’s was the perfect end to the “That’s My Farmer” dinner Chef Intaba catered last week (I volunteered to help her with the meal). When you have to feed a crowd, and strawberries are just in season, there’s no finer dessert.


Written by baltimoregon

June 5, 2009 at 12:47 am

Strawberry, Rhubarb and Banana Crostata

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Looking for something different to do with your rhubarb this spring? Try this Italian crostata recipe. It comes from the Tra Vigne Cookbook, Michael Chiarello’s Napa Valley restaurant. The toasted aniseed in the crisp really compliments the tart rhubarb flavor. Be sure to try to use extra ripe red bananas, which are more custardy than their yellow cousins. The polenta made for a dense, cookie-like crust. But it was still a bit crunchy, like undercooked rice. Any suggestions on how to soften the polenta? I added vanilla, ginger and cardamom to the recipes, all flavors that subtley enhance that rhubarb flavor. Remember that rhubarb acts as a thickener here to sop up the berry juices. If you omit the rhubarb, add a thickener, like tapioca pearls. Here is the recipe in full:

Strawberry, Rhubarb, and Banana Crostata

Recipe courtesy Michael Chiarello

Prep Time:
40 min
Inactive Prep Time:
hr min
Cook Time:
1 hr 0 min
4 to 6 servings



  • 1 1/2 cups pastry flour (1/2-pound)
  • 3/4 cup polenta (1/4-pound)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
  • Large pinch fine salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten


  • 1 pound rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 full pint basket large, ripe strawberries, about 1 pound, hulled and halved or quartered
  • 2 large ripe bananas, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 orange, zest freshly grated
  • 1 lemon, zest freshly grated
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Vanilla gelato or sweetened whipped cream, for serving, optional


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

To make the topping, measure the flour, polenta, sugar, salt, baking powder, and anise seeds into a food processor or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Pulse for a few seconds to combine.

Add the butter and pulse or mix on medium-low speed until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the egg into the well and toss the egg and flour together lightly and thoroughly with your fingers until evenly mixed. The mixture will not adhere in the manner of a dough but will clump together if pressed in your palm. Set aside until needed.

To make the filling, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and toss until well mixed. Turn mixture into a 2 quart shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the topping over the filling in an even layer. Do not press down. Place the dish on a baking sheet to catch the drips and place in the oven.

Bake until the juices are bubbling up around the topping and the top is crisp and golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve warm with gelato, if desired.

Chef’s note: If you choose to bake the dessert in individual dishes, cut the baking time by about half.

Written by baltimoregon

April 25, 2009 at 9:26 am

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Rhubarb: There’s a Reason We Call it the Pie Plant

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Those crisp, ruby red stalks of rhubarb have arrived at our local farmers markets. I’m gaga for the pie plant, which marries best with strawberries in sweet desserts. But every year I try to attempt unusual rhubarb creations. No more. This plant really belongs in pies and crisps.

I made a wheatberry salad with rhubarb-mint dressing (see below) for the seasonal Ten Rivers Food Web recipe contest. The goal is to use as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible in your recipe. I didn’t win one of the prices for the top three dishes, but I did at least get a shout out for even using locally grown recipes. I had also entered this contest last winter with my chickpea-leek soup. I’ll enter again with the fall contest. Maybe third time is the charm?

But really I’ve concluded that rhubarb’s place is in desserts. I do recommend keeping it crisp through a sweet macerating marinade rather than fully cooking it, as I have done before with this New York Times recipe: “Crisp Rhubarb in a Sweet Broth” (page 2). Later this week, I’ll be cooking and posting about a “Strawberry, Rhubarb and Red Banana Crostata” I’m making from the Tra Vigne Cookbook. It’s a crisp/cobbler made with polenta and toasted anise seeds. Stay tuned!

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Written by baltimoregon

April 19, 2009 at 11:58 am

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