June is here and delights are beginning to come in from the garden. Among the radish and peas, the lettuces and green onion are the strawberries, the most wonderful of all fruits and the one that really makes it feel like summer . Of all the berries, the strawberries are the earliest and, in my opinion, the tastiest. At least I say that until early July, when the blueberries are ripening, and then early august when we taste the delectable raspberries and blackberries. But for now we indulge in the sweet, tangy, indescribably yummy strawberry.
I have a small berry patch that I often think takes up too much real estate in my tiny kitchen garden. Most of the year it looks stringy and sad, almost as if the plants are dead or dying, but not so. Come May, out come the shoots and flowers that, ever so agonizingly slowly, turn into hard green fruits and then ripen into luscious berries. I have everbearing plants, which means they produce fruit all summer, although not as prolifically as they do in June. Come August, they are growing wild and trying to climb down the sides of the raised beds and into the paths. They are so hearty and vigorous they can root into the deep pine chips I use as mulch on the pathways. Each year I cut back the runners and plant some back into the bed in the bare spaces, replace some older plants, and reluctantly throw out the rest. They are so hearty, in fact, that one year I ripped them all up and, not able to throw them out, kept them in a bag in my garage. Then, regretting my decision, I replanted half of them back into another bed, where they took, and bore berries the same year.
As hearty as they are, strawberries are a funny plant. They only produce for a few years, and will shoot out runners that can overtake the garden rapidly. They use an enormous amount of nutrients and therefore should be moved every 3 years or so to a different spot in the garden. They are best heavily mulched, which both keeps the berries out of the mud,and protects the crowns from cold. They like water, but not too much, and must be in well draining soil. Weather will affect the crop and determine ripening times; with warmth and abundant sunshine they ripen quickly, rain and clouds cause some delay. Some varieties do well in containers, and are a good choice for those with not much space, but they must be watered regularly.
Besides eating them fresh on granola or yogurt, one of our favorite things to do with berries is to make ice cream. Following is a simple and delicious recipe that can’t be beat.
1 pint fresh berries
1 1/2 cups cream, divided
3 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
Wash and crush the berries with a potato masher until pulpy.
Heat 1 cup cream in a saucepan over medium heat until bubbles form on the sides of the pan.
Mix together egg yolks 1/2 cup cream, and sugar in a medium bowl
Add the hot cream to the yolk mixture, whisking constantly, and then return the mixture to the pan. Over medium low heat, whisk the mixture until it becomes thickened, 5-10 minutes. DO NOT BOIL. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
When custard is cool, add to an ice cream churn and follow the manufacturer’s directions. YUM!