Wednesday, 19 June 2024

Foodie Freak: Strawberries are here

Sshhhhh! Be very quiet here, don’t even read this out loud. I don’t want too many people to know this. Just be happy that I’m telling you: The strawberry farm in Clearlake Oaks is open! You can imagine me jumping up and down yelling, “Woo-Hoo!”


What’s that? You don’t know what I look like so you can’t picture that? OK, real quick, imagine a really handsome man; now make him 100 pounds heavier, then give him a beard and a big grey hat. Now you can imagine me jumping up and down yelling “Woo-Hoo!”


But anyway, let me get back to the important news.


Just as you are approaching Clearlake Oaks from the southeast on Highway 20, there is a strawberry farm on the right hand side of the road. I have never had better strawberries than from this stand. If you have only ever had strawberries from the supermarket, when you stop here you will think these strawberries are a religious experience.


Need a better description? For readers who live in Napa or Ukiah, they’re worth the drive! How’s that? I save the little green baskets the strawberries come in for the entire summer, wash them, and the following spring I bring them back to the farm for reuse. I typically collect 50 to 60 baskets per year.


Am I getting my point across? These are the BEST strawberries anywhere! One word of advice/warning: if you have to drive any further than three miles, one basket will not make it all of the way home, so purchase accordingly.


I’ve often thought of saving the seeds from one of the berries, or asking the stand what variety of strawberries they were so I could grow them at home, but then I realize that it’s so much easier just to go to the farm stand to pick up as many as I want.


My daughter will play hostess to her friends many days during the summer, and we sit them out on the deck with a flat of strawberries and a pitcher of lemonade. That evening the flat is nothing but a cardboard box and a few green baskets, the deck has red stains all over it, and the ground is littered with strawberry hulls.


There are several stories about how strawberries received their name, with the most popular story being that in the garden they are mulched with straw. Other stories have English children threading strawberries on a reed of straw and selling them as “Strawed berries”, and yet another story describes how they were found “strewn” over the forest floor, “Strewnberries.”


But the most likely origin of the name is the practice of packaging the berries in straw for transportation and displaying them in the market on the straw. Most often in tales of naming produce, the story that evolves from the consumer spreads the farthest and therefore becomes better known. Tales of how they were named by the grower rarely survive.


I think that strawberries are one of the most sensual foods that exist. I can prove it, too: give a woman a strawberry and she will produce two sounds. First upon seeing the strawberry she will give off an inquisitive and anticipatory “Ooo!?” then upon eating it she will sound out with a pleasurable, almost orgasmic “Mmmmmmm!”


Strawberries have been considered an aphrodisiac since before the times of Rome. They contain more vitamin C than any other berry (one cup of strawberries provide 140 percent of the recommended daily allowance). Strawberries are high in potassium, folic acid and antioxidants, and have been found to carry out several things to prevent and reduce cancer. Strawberries also contain a couple of flavonoids that battle LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. Mixing strawberries with baking soda is supposed to be a great natural whitening toothpaste, but I just think that it’s a waste of good strawberries.


Have I whet your appetite for fresh, farm grown strawberries?


The Oaks strawberry stand prices are as follows:


Basket $2

Half flat $10

Full flat $19


The recipe below is for strawberry crepes, but I have to be precise: they aren’t for “true” crepes but they are easier to make. They offer a good launch at crepe-making for the beginner, and a lazy day break for the pro.



Simple strawberry filled crepes

Try serving as breakfast in bed.


Simple crepes (makes about three to four crepes)

3 eggs

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon milk

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon sugar

Pinch of salt


Mix the crepes ingredients well until combined, then cover and place in the refrigerator overnight (You need to give the flour time to hydrate and the bubbles to subside).


The next morning, heat a non-stick pan on medium heat and butter it well. Give the batter a light stirring just to make sure that the flour isn’t settled on the bottom. If the flour didn’t mix well and you have clumps, just put the batter through a strainer before cooking. Pour in about one quarter of the crepe mix and tilt the pan in a circular motion until the entire bottom of the pan is covered and the batter is no longer liquid (set). Many crepe recipes will call for you to flip the crepe but this isn’t necessary as long as the batter is set. If you buttered the pan well the crepe should just slide off the pan onto a plate. The general rule of crepe making is “The first one never turns out”, so don’t panic on the first one. Even pros mess up the first one more often than not.


Continue this process until you have used all of the batter. I typically make a double batch of batter the night before so I can make extra crepes.


Fill the crepes with the following mixture:


Filling

½ cup strawberries, hulled and halved

¼ cup sour cream

¼ cup cream cheese

1 tablespoon honey

Small pinch of cayenne pepper or black pepper

Optional whipped cream for topping


Mix well in a bowl and then spoon into crepes and roll them up. Topping the crepes with a little whipped cream gives you bonus points! A dusting of cocoa powder wouldn’t hurt either.


You can also use the sour cream cheese mixture to pipe into hollowed out strawberries for a delicious finger food/dessert.


Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


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