One of the nice things about living in a very sparsely populated rural area is that when the first local strawberries of the season arrive at the only store in town, the owner is likely to personally call and give you a heads up because he remembers that you bought something like 20 quarts of strawberries last year and are a sucker for rarely available local fruit.
"One of the Amish down the road just brought in 40 quarts of strawberries that he picked this morning and needs to sell today because he can't sell on Sundays. Do you want some?" When he said they were grown by one of the two brothers who built our new sheep barn and hay barn a few years ago, and who I know gardens organically, I was sold.
By the time we made it into town a few hours later there were only 10 quarts of strawberries left (one family, who no doubt also received a phone call, had swooped in and scooped up the majority of them), and I bought six, assuming this would be the first offering of many.
The plan was to freeze some of the berries, but in just a few days we managed to devour all six quarts. It wasn't hard.
Most of the ones that weren't eaten straight out of hand went into bowls of vanilla ice cream (that would be Joe's breakfast) or topped toasted slices of homemade sprouted wheat sourdough bread spread with coconut oil, peanut butter, and a thin smear of strawberry jam (that would be my breakfast—I had them with ice cream later).
There was still a quart or so of berries left when Joe's older brother and his wife arrived last week from out of state for a three-day, food-filled whirlwind farm visit, so for breakfast the first morning I pulled out half of an orange yogurt loaf cake I had stashed in the freezer, piled thick slices of cake with sliced strawberries that had been tossed with a sprinkling of sugar to bring out the juices, and waited for the moans of delight. It didn't take long.
This Easy Orange Yogurt Loaf Cake, which I created back in 2008, is one of the most popular recipes on Farmgirl Fare and still one of my personal favorites.
It's an old-fashioned, not overly-sweet cake that mixes up quickly, can be eaten plain or gussied up, and stays moist for several days. It tastes even better the second day (so you can bake it ahead), transports well, freezes beautifully, and can be easily sliced when frozen.
It's heavenly with fresh strawberries or blueberries, especially if you add some whipped cream and/or vanilla ice cream.
This is the kind of simple cake recipe that everyone should have in their collection (try a lemon or other citrus version instead of orange), and the comments at the end of the recipe are full of rave reviews.
I try to freeze several quarts of strawberries each spring so we can enjoy them months later in smoothies, and I usually just spread the berries out on rimmed baking sheets lined with unbleached parchment paper until they're frozen, then pack them in freezer zipper bags. That way they're individually frozen and you can pull out just a handful at a time.
But last year I tried sealing some of the strawberries in FoodSaver bags instead of just packing them in the freezer bags, and they lasted much better. And although they froze into a solid mass once they'd been sealed, you could just break off chunks of frozen berries without having to defrost the whole bag at a time, which then came apart individually. (The FoodSaver seal was then gone on the remaining frozen berries, of course, but they still kept fine for a while in the freezer.)
This past year I also discovered that defrosted frozen strawberries taste almost better than the fresh ones when served with orange yogurt cake because all that sweet juice they produce while defrosting soaks up into the cake. Just in case you're interested.
I've always had a strawberry bed in my kitchen garden, but several years ago during a really warm and wet spring I lost all my plants to some kind of disgusting fruit rot (I think it was gray mold), and I never replaced them. Probably because that was right around the time several strawberry-loving Amish families moved to the area and started selling their extra bounty for $2.50 a quart. (The price has since gone up to $3.00.)
I've been happily keeping them in business, but in late March I bought a $6.00 bundle of bare root Honeoye strawberry plants on a whim from our friends' (aka our raw Jersey milk suppliers) new greenhouse business because I missed having our own strawberries and everything tastes better when you grow it yourself.
Honeoye is one of the varieties I've grown before here in Missouri, and they did pretty well. Our two Amish barn builders now have a third brother living in the area, and last year he and his wife picked 80 quarts of Honeoyes in one day from their not very big plot. I think we bought about a dozen quarts of berries from them last year (in addition to the ones I bought at the only store in town), and they were really good.
I planted my Honeoyes in a nice big bed where they would could get plenty of air circulation, mulched the bare ground around them to keep down the weeds, and started relocating every turtle who has already been scoping out the area. One of the nice things about buying strawberries from our neighbors instead of growing them myself is that I don't have to share my bounty with the turtles, who seem to love strawberries even more than the Amish and I do.
The plants immediately took off, and I dutifully removed each flower that appeared so the plants would focus on root growth rather than fruit production. No strawberries the first year means bigger harvests in future years.
Everything was going great, although the weeds were beginning to shoot up because the grass clippings were already breaking down, and I hadn't had a chance to mulch the whole bed with a thick layer of sheep manure bedding hay from the barn.
And then last Saturday night some deer sneaked past three dogs who were supposed to be on guard duty and munched down all 27 plants.
I'm hoping they'll miraculously come back to life. In the meantime, I keep shaking my head in disbelief at the dogs and rethinking the (obviously not improved as well as I'd thought) fencing situation.
I'm also baking another orange yogurt cake and waiting for the phone to ring. If we don't get any more strawberries this year, I can always stick it in the freezer.
More favorite Farmgirl Fare cake and quick bread recipes:
100% Whole Wheat Coconut Zucchini Bread
Heavenly Lemon Coconut Quick Bread
Lemon Rosemary Zucchini Bread
Quick Chocolate Emergency Loaf Cake
Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet & savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.
P.S. Sadly, strawberries are currently #4 (a few years ago they were #2) on the Environmental Working Group's list of most contaminated produce. Search for locally grown, organic strawberries (which will be so much more flavorful than store bought) on Local Harvest, or find a U-Pick farm in your area on PickYourOwn.org.
© FarmgirlFare.com, a berry good place to be.