Strawberry Fields Forever
Contributed by Dana Benigno
I remember one June morning when my mom and her friend Gail loaded all of the kids (five of us, ages 11 to 5) into our wood-paneled, blue station wagon and drove to a strawberry patch to pick berries. It was a hot summer morning and we were all dispersed throughout a few rows, when dark ominous clouds appeared on the horizon. We all began picking and eating strawberries as fast as we could to finish before the storm hit. We didn’t make it. Torrential rains completely drenched all of us turning the rows into mud slicks.
We sank into the wet mud up to our ankles as we trudged out of the field. Five very muddy and wet kids rode home with two drenched moms, and it was the most fun. The smell of strawberries always reminds me of that day.
In the upper Midwest, strawberry season begins in early to mid-June and usually lasts through the Fourth of July, depending upon the weather. When berries are at their peak, make a large purchase and freeze them in zip-top bags for smoothies, pancakes, pies and other treats throughout the year. Farmers markets are the best place to buy locally grown strawberries, because they are picked at their peak and sold immediately for the freshest taste.
For me, there is something nostalgic about recipes that use fresh berries. Maybe it’s the style of desserts such as strawberry short cake or ice cream, but they all make me think of state fairs and church picnics. Here’s a classic American recipe just right for late spring and early summer.
Photograph of Pie and Dana Benigno, Kaitlyn McQuaid