One of my favorite parts of the month of June is strawberries. Not those big, tough, tasteless ones you get in the grocery store. Real Northwest strawberries, picked fresh from the field.
Northwest strawberries aren’t the prettiest fruit. They look funny. Some might call them, well… ugly. They are long and irregular and knobbly. They are delicate, so you can’t pile them up in a bucket without finding a few squashed ones at the bottom. They are only perfectly ripe for about 36 hours, then they quickly rot.
But what they are lacking in physical beauty, they make up for in taste. Sweet, juicy berry pleasure on the tongue. Perfect for pies and jams and toppings for ice cream. Or, if you can’t wait that long, they are great just straight from the bowl. Or even better, directly from the plant itself.
Every year, I take my kids strawberry picking. My original goal for these outings was to give them a sense of where food comes from. It occurred to me this year that I may rethink this plan in favor of the farmer’s market because picking strawberries is hard work. My back isn’t what it used to be.
But I’m a sucker for the mud and the bugs and the sun on my neck and the greedy feeling that comes over me when I spy a clump of perfectly ripe berries under a leafy green canopy. I want those berries, I think, as a shiver of excitement swirls in my belly. Mine! Mine! Mine!
I pop one in my mouth as I grab the others… plop, into my bucket they go. And I take them home and try to enjoy them for the next day or so until they turn to berry mush in my refrigerator.
My son, raised in the Northwest, will only eat strawberries grown here. He turns up his nose at their California cousins in their plastic containers at the store. While I lament his attitude when I want strawberries in April and May, I know he has a point.
Fresh Northwest strawberries are like tiny pieces of berry heaven.