Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Berry Patch at Restoration Farm: A Field of Possibilities

The strawberries at Restoration Farm have gone through a rough patch. Maybe it’s the heavy rain. The plants look a bit trampled. But, I suppose everyone feels a bit downtrodden at times.

I can still remember last season’s pert and iridescent deep red berries. This year, the berries have been smaller and far more tart. Some are odd shapes. You really have to search to find them. I am reminded again that the farm is far from a still life, and every season is a new moment in time.

Head grower Caroline Fanning tells me it’s probably the last week for the strawberries. How did the time go so quickly? She suggests picking two quarts so the remaining berries don’t rot on the vine and loans me a second container. “You’ve really got to put in the time to find them, though,” she advises.

I stoop in a field that appears to have experienced some trauma. Some of the berries are soft, or even moldy from the rain. A woman who is picking nearby says it smells like strawberry wine. If you breathe deep, there is an intense sweet aroma, and here and there, you can still find a perfect gem. Despite the trauma, there is potential and many CSA members are in the field still searching for possibilities.

Glenn Aldridge, the caretaker of the strawberries, tells me to hunt in the heavier growth at the center of the field and I will be rewarded.

“But, I don’t want to trample the plants,” I tell him.

“Trample away,” he says. “In a week and a half, the whole field will be turned under. Next season we start fresh again.”

How many times do you get a free pass to stomp to your heart’s content? And, how often do you get a chance at a fresh start? I need to remember this when I leave the farm. My perseverance unearths nearly two quarts of strawberries.

Although the strawberries may be leaving us too quickly, all over the Sweet Field, there are signs of new possibilities, like deep pink blossoms signaling midsummer blackberries…

And, the first of the blueberries, with just a slight flush of purple visible.

A Gingered Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie (recipe found here) reminds me that while at times it may not be obvious, you can always uncover some sweet possibilities.

And, if the pie happens to crack in half if you’ve tried to move it before it’s sufficiently cooled, remember the lesson from the strawberry field of what’s possible, and turn it into a perfectly acceptable and very tasty strawberry-rhubarb crisp.

©2011 T.W. Barritt all Rights Reserved

22 comments:

Maris(In Good Taste) said...

That pie looks incredible. Best part of the season are all the delicious berries!

lostpastremembered said...

Isn't ginger rhubarb the best? Love your pie.... I just had the same thing happen to my game pie a few weeks ago... and with the right attitude... all was well if not perfect!
I love gardens and their everchanging ways... every year brings different flavors from a vegetable depending on weather and soil... it makes the produce so vibrant... not like plastic agro-business garbage.
Love your stories of the farm... fell like I'm there!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I love the lessons we're all learning from Restoration Farm. Life is not perfect, Mother Nature can be capricious, and what's bad for the strawberries will be the perfect environment for something else. And, as someone whose baking often goes awry, I can tell you that the best thing to do is to say that the crisp was your goal all along!

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

How many times do you get a free pass to stomp to your heart’s content? In my opinion, not often enough. You must have felt like a child set free in the fields.

I've only picked strawberries once and it was best described as stoop labor. However, the taste of the berries is more than worth the task. Love your stories about the farm T.W.
Sam

Mary said...

We, too, have been picking berries that have been battered by the vagaries of weather. The crop here has just started to come in and the first of the berries are always tart. I'm trying to hold off a bit before committing to the purchase of flats for jam. I sure hope my timing is right. Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy that tasty looking crisp. Blessings...Mary

Kalyn said...

I think eating strawberries just picked from the field must be worth the work of having to hunt for them. Lately I'm wondering why I've never grown them and wondering if I can find a spot for a few strawberry plants!

veron said...

those strawberries look incredible! And what a delicious looking pie...you know how I feel about them! :)

Julia said...

I wonder if they also have the strawberries on a three year rotation, and each year you pick berries from a plot that's on its third year?

Barbara said...

Really like your Restoration Farm posts, T.W. The results of weather are imprinted right there in the fields. I hope parents bring their children on a regular basis.
Pleased you kept searching and found plenty of berries...they'll be the sweeter for your efforts.

alfred p said...

GREETINGS FROM SWEDEN! I've decided to relocate to an old wooden boat docked in the Stockholm harbor at least until winter sets in. Your recent post about strawberries made me very homesick. You see, the locals here tell me that the Swedes don't eat anything red--that's how they maintain their blonde hair and fair complexion. Unfortunately, I've discovered that red foods made up a disproportionate amount of my diet back in the States--so now I am literally starving. So, please, if you can, in future posts write about something yellow. Ya?

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Alfred- Maybe you should look for a strawberry blonde.

alfred p said...

i think a ligonberry blonde would be more appropriate

Janet@ from cupcakes to caviar said...

I loved your post and very definitely loved the pie! :-)

tasteofbeirut said...

Your story gave me a flashback to our first few months in our house in France when we discovered by chance wild strawberries strewn about. Have you ever tasted these tiny gems? I don't think I have seen wild strawberries in the US ever. In France they are called "fraises des bois"; anyway, it is so nice to have a farm nearby and folks who care for it to befriend.

Velva said...

It's wonderful to be given a pass to find all the strawberries you can find, and it's okay to trample the plants in the hunt. Woo-hoo!

The farm is like life, it gives you a chance you to renew and start over. Love it.

Awesome.
Velva

~~louise~~ said...

Hi T.W! Whew! I made it!

Restoration Farm is getting under your skin, T.W. That's a good thing!!! Lovely pie:) I sure could use a piece right now. Alas, like the strawberries, I'm sure its gone by now.

P.S. Don't forget the Picnic Game tomorrow. Just wait til you see what's in the basket this year!!!

Zany said...

This post reminds me of strawberry picking with my mom when I was young. It was a tradition to gather the baskets in the basement and head to the fields for an afternoon of picking. I pretty much looked like a strawberry when it was over...

Christine (Cook the Story) said...

The end of strawberry season is so bitter sweet. It's funny how many memories I have of strawberry-picking and yet I haven't done it in years. Next year, I promise! Until then, you've put this song by Deanna Carter in my head and I think I'll add it to my ipod right now (I strangely love it even though I'm not really a country music fan): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Up06CryWQpE

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Christine - great tune! Thanks for sharing!

Gloria said...

I love strawberries, these look delicious! gloria

Mary said...

I'm just jumping back in to send holiday wishes your way. Have a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

Jann said...

The weather has not been kind to our fair weather friends in the field~however-to get free reign in a strawberry patch is as good as it gets! Never know what lies beneath those clumps of leaves,maybe the mother load! We had no migrant help this season to pick tomatoes in Fl and acres went to waste. That broke my heart~