At Open View Gardens, our weekend revolved around strawberries. Since this year we can’t pick any of our own strawberries in order to encourage the 50 first-year plants to send their energy to their roots (which will lead to healthier, more robust plants and higher yields next year), we decided to go to The Last Resort Farm in Monkton, Vermont, which offers organic pick-your-own berries.
Although organic berries are much more expensive than conventional berries, they are one of the most important foods to buy, or pick, organic. Strawberries rank #3 on the Environmental Working Group’s list of produce containing the highest numbers of pesticides, following only celery and peaches. (If you’re interested in seeing their full guide to pesticides, along with information on safe personal care products, sunscreen, drinking water and much more, you can find them here.)
It’s still early here for strawberries; in a week’s time or so the berries will be redder and juicier. We couldn’t wait any longer, though, so we hopped in the car in search of enough berries to make two types of French-style strawberry jam and to experiment with roasted strawberry balsamic ice cream and sorbet.
When we were visiting our good friend Stacie in LA, she brought us to her favorite strawberry grower at the farmer’s market in Venice Beach, where we tasted the best strawberries ever. That evening for dinner, after she made two fresh pastas, one with corn and pancetta and the other with fresh favas and peas, a gorgeous salad and a lemon goat cheese curd, Stacie served up her incredible roasted strawberry balsamic ice cream. This weekend, after texting Stacie for advice, consulting David Lebovitz and Alice Waters, (unfortunately their cookbooks and not them in person), we’ve been experimenting with our own recipes.
In addition to the ice cream and sorbet, we started filming our first video post of Barbara making French-style strawberry jam, sharing her memories of her French host mother making jam as well as explaining her technique. We plan to incorporate many more videos, not only of us at Open View Gardens, but also of other inspiring home cooks who will share their stories and show us their kitchens and the dishes they love to cook. In addition to guest video posts, we will also be featuring guest writers who will share their thoughts, insights and stories on their relationship to food.
While you wait for the video, here are some interesting facts to consider about strawberries:
– The genius fragraria is part of the rose family (hence the many wonderful recipes pairing strawberries and rose petals or rosewater)
– There are more than 20 species of the strawberry plant
– Strawberries are not berries at all! The red fruit is a receptacle and the “seeds” are not seeds but achenes, a type of dry fruit containing a seed.
For the last two days our kitchen has been filled with the aroma of strawberries macerating in sugar and lemon juice and caramelizing in the oven. Tonight we will finally taste our ambrosia and dream of next year when we will have endless amounts of berries from our own gardens to experiment with.