The strawberry patch moved around some, but I liked it best when it was in the orchard. We lived at the top of a big hill, and I would have to climb the driveway every day after being deposited at the bottom of the hill by the school bus. The orchard was about halfway up. It contained various fruit trees that never produced and died off one by one at a slow, but steady rate. The rest of the orchard was mostly just unkempt grass with a smattering of wildflowers. Later, there were blueberry bushes that I think were planted specifically to have their fruit eaten by deer, because we got more blueberries than we could handle from the dozen bushes at the top of the hill. And for a couple of years, there was a strawberry patch. The strawberries came into season at the end of the school year. I would regularly stop on my long and hated hike up the driveway to pick and eat every ripe strawberry I found. I was never told not to do this, so either we had enough of a harvest to support both me and my mother's jam needs or my parents never knew I did it. Perhaps it was all apart of their dastardly plan.
Store-bought strawberries are fine, as long as you've never tasted real ones. They're just slightly off in a lot of ways. They're not juicy and tender, but sort of hard and dry. They're sweet, but it's a sort of fake sweet, like drinking diet soda. And they're not red in the middle. I don't understand these weird berries which are beautiful and red on the outside, but bright white on the inside. It's like the ripeness of the outside doesn't match the ripeness of the inside. Store-bought strawberry beauty is indeed only skin deep. I bet there are people in this country who have never had a real strawberry, and I am sad for them.
I woke up with a hankering for strawberries one Saturday morning in late May. I knew they were in season, and I'd seen them at the grocery store on sale. I'd been tempted to buy some several times, knowing that I would be disappointed. There had to be another way. Then suddenly, it struck me.
Josh and I arrived at the Farmer's Market in the afternoon, when the heat was mixing with the smell of fresh, ripe fruit and honest dirt to create a pungent aroma to stimulate the taste buds and the wallet. We were there with a purpose - to obtain farm-fresh strawberries - and then we saw the gigantic sweet potatoes and the unblemished snap beans and the plump tomatoes. There was asparagus and zucchini and yellow squash. We spent $15 on local produce, two-thirds of that was on strawberries (haha, you have to do math!)
Then we got home and had a heck of a lot of strawberries to deal with. So we made these.
- 16 ounces milk chocolate chips
- 2 tablespoons shortening
- 1 pound fresh strawberries with leaves
- Insert toothpicks into the tops of the strawberries.
- In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and shortening, stirring occasionally until smooth. Holding them by the toothpicks, dip the strawberries into the chocolate mixture.
- Turn the strawberries upside down and insert the toothpick into styrofoam for the chocolate to cool.
The funnest part of this recipe is sticking the strawberries upside down in the styrofoam. It looks like a tiny forest that you might find inside Willy Wonka's factory.
Now, I'm not a chocolate person. I enjoy chocolate, of course. But I can have a piece of it and then stop with no problem while Josh finishes the rest of the bar and then every other chocolate thing in the house, including any baking chocolate I might have in the pantry. However, I discovered that my capacity for chocolate increases exponentially (more math!) if you stick a farm-fresh strawberry inside it. We were gorging ourselves on these treats when Josh sighed and said he'd had enough. I was confused, because there were more chocolate-covered strawberries left, so how could he be done? It just didn't make any sense. But I sighed and stopped, too, because I knew if I ate even one more, the whole lot of them would be down my gullet before he could say "Hey, save one for me!"
Later, I made strawberry shortcake and just generally ate a lot of strawberries. Take that, parents!