|Farmers Market Strawberries|
|Fresh Strawberry Cake|
Every summer I remember my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles sitting around the dining room table talking about the upcoming summer harvest. I remember their saying Maryland was known for its’ strawberries, corn, tomatoes and crabs. In all my travels, I’ve never duplicated the taste of strawberries, corn and tomatoes that hail from our Maryland farms or the very distinctive tasting Maryland crab. When I bite in to any one of these at the height of their season, I have the same reaction as I did the previous season, the season before and the season before. There is nothing that compares to Maryland strawberries, Maryland corn, Maryland tomatoes and Maryland crabs...how fortunate this season is upon us!
Marked in my “summertime” memory as well are what are known as A-rabs; men with pony drawn carts filled with local produce, bellowing, “Marrrrr lynn berries, come git ya Marrrrr lynn berries, Marrrrrr lynn berries, git um now.” On days when I was downtown working with my dad, we would buy a pint of strawberries and eat them on our way to the Lexington Market; our red-stained fingers wrapped around a cracker covered crab cake were happy reminders of our most recent “Marrrrrr lynn berry” repast. At the end of the day when we were heading north for home we would buy several pints of strawberries from one of the pony drawn carts; more than enough berries for my mother to make her delicious strawberry pie.
Maryland strawberries are different from any berry I’ve tasted. Imported strawberries or strawberries from other parts of the country aren’t as potent in flavor and don’t have the deep red color so indicative of the Maryland berry. Imported or out-of-state berries usually have white centers and are lighter in color. Maryland berries are deep red both inside and out and are much sweeter and juicier. So juicy they are actually thirst quenching.
The freshest Maryland strawberries are found at roadside stands, farmers’ markets or pick-your-own farms. Perfectly ripe berries are not too firm and not too soft and have a distinct sweet scent. Choose berries that are plump and deep red with stems intact. Medium size berries are often more flavorful than those that are excessively large.
Conventional strawberries should be washed prior to serving. Remove stems and caps. Washing organic strawberries is a matter of preference. Strawberries are very perishable and should be eaten soon after purchase. They will keep however refrigerated for a few days. For best results refrigerate them unwashed with stem intact. For future use they can be frozen; remove stem and cap, and spread unwashed, whole strawberries in a single layer, freeze until solid, transfer to plastic bags or containers and keep frozen until ready to use.
Fresh Strawberry Cake
3 cups strawberries, quartered or cut into bite size pieces
Generously oil a 9-inch pie plate with canola oil. Arrange strawberries in the bottom of pie plate.
2 eggs, room temperature
⅔ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 350°. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs on medium speed and gradually add sugar. Add vanilla and butter and continue to beat until well combined; slowly add flour.
Top strawberries with batter. (The batter doesn’t have to completely cover the strawberries, in fact, I prefer some of the fruit exposed, it makes it look so rustic and homemade looking.) Bake for 30-40 minutes or until light brown and bubbly. Yield: 6 servings.