Wild Strawberry Season
By Jessica Spencer
This is a food memory written by a friend of mine about strawberry season in Pennsylvania.
In late spring a blanket of white flowers with a distinct yellow center covers the hayfields and backyards of North central Pennsylvania.
These flowers seek the sour soils of rocky hills to take root and establish for the wild strawberry growing season. As the month of June begins the strawberry blossoms begin to transform and berries slowly appear. The hard unripe berries quickly turn from a greenish-white to a deep red and droop by bunches from a narrow stem. Four or more strawberries can hang on a stem and weigh the tiny plant into the ground. Others grow a heartier stem and hang high like a shepards hook in a gardeners backyard.
The wild strawberries grow in clusters as you walk across the fields. The blossoms in the backyards succumb to the blades of lawnmowers, and never quite reach full maturity except for a few lucky ones. When you discover a patch of berries without a bowl your step becomes light as you tip toe around the myriad of berries careful not to squish the bounty below the feet.
The picking season varies on Mother Nature. Some seasons last over a month, while rainy, cool seasons cause the berries to either not ripen or become mushy from the dampness of the ground and hayfield grasses surrounding the strawberries. Picking wild strawberries takes patience, not just to fill a full bowl of berries the size of the end of your pinky, but also the potential of determined horseflies, deerflies, and mosquitoes preying on hot summer skin.
When the bugs are at rest, the strawberry picking is peaceful and the mind wanders in and out of thoughts of wild strawberry jam, and strawberries frozen for a special treat during winter doldrums. I learned about all of the hearty wild strawberry patches from my Mother. She took me out into the fields when I was just a baby in a stroller tagging along for the ride. Now during each wild strawberry season I try to out pick my Mom, but she still has me beat. I still have a lot of picking to do.
Two quarts of wild strawberries are needed in order to make one batch of jam. Smaller amounts of strawberries suits strawberry shortcake or toppings for ice cream and cakes. Follow these recipes to enjoy wild strawberries in your home either right after picking or throughout the entire year:
Wild Strawberry Shortcake
1 homemade buttermilk biscuit- warmed
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
1 cup of wild strawberries (or as many as you would like)
Put a hand full of berries in the bottom of a bowl. Warm the biscuit. Then, separate and place the bottom half over the wild strawberries. Layer on top a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Layer on top of the ice cream a dollup of whipped cream. On top of the whipped cream is another layer of wild strawberries. Continue this layering sequence one more time and enjoy.
Wild Strawberry Jam
2 quarts crushed wild strawberries
6 cups of sugar
Bring to a boil in a saucepan until sugar dissolves. Add 1 pouch of certo/fruit pectin and boil for 1 minute. Pour hot mixture into sterilized jars. Let set and enjoy.