Here in Flyover Country, the strawberries are back for their annual performance! For many of us, the ripening of strawberries in fields wild and commercial once heralded the beginning of summer. Today, though, strawberries are available year-round and, frankly, the “specialness” of them is somewhat muted. But those all-season berries—the softball-sized behemoths encased in their plastic clamshells of protection—often lack something. And that something is flavor. It’s no wonder, as they travel all the way from California or Florida. I rarely buy supermarket strawberries anymore (unless I need them for a garnish or they are an integral part of a recipe that’s been requested by a guest).
To know me is to love me. Maybe. Or not. But to know me is to know that I do value eating seasonally—the autumn, for example, finds me eating apples with abandon (hey, the “weird” local varieties are finally at the farmers markets!), long-cooked and slow-braised dishes are a winter mainstay, and my grills get a heavy workout in the summer. Spring in Indiana can be fairly mercurial, so I might grill on Friday and braise on Sunday. Because of my seasonality bent, strawberries are truly a late spring/early summer delight. I’ll eat my fill of them plain, with crème fraiche, sliced into yogurt. I’ll break out the canner to make strawberry-vanilla jam. There may even be a strawberry tart or two in there somewhere. But in July, when the local berries are no more, my fickle heart will start paying attention to peaches.
Now, here’s an interesting fact: While California is the number one strawberry-producing state (by a wide margin), not one, not two, but THREE Flyover States place in the top ten! Michigan (#7), Wisconsin (#8), and Ohio (#10) apparently do grow a fair amount of commercial strawberries. While this is not unusual geographically—strawberries, depending on variety, can be grown in many different environments—one doesn’t think of FlyoverLand when one thinks of commercial strawberries.
Now that fresh, local strawberries have returned to the Midwest and Plains, many people are incorporating them into recipes. I am no exception. Coming up in my next post is a recipe for Roasted Strawberry Ice Cream.