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The scent of strawberries


July 10, 2019
Someone brought strawberries Monday night to writing group. Fresh. Local. The real Michigan deal. Their scent gave them away.

Here I thought I'd missed strawberry season. Hope for strawberry rhubarb pie, strawberry shortcake, and strawberry sundaes leapt from my lips. "Who brought the strawberries?"

"I did," Debbi said.

"Where did you find them?"

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"Blake's."

"The Almont location?"

"Yes. I just love that place."

Next morning, I drove 5.3 miles to Blake's and couldn't believe how they've expanded their operation. A large room with displays of garden structures caught my eye. I'm a sucker for beautiful horticultural enhancements.

As summer is prone to behave on a fair day, nostalgia struck. I remembered the drive from our Detroit home with our three daughters to Blake's Cider Mill in Armada. We picked apples, gobbled up donuts, and washed them down with cider.

Mom visited from Kentucky to teach me how to make applesauce. These intimate events leave a lifelong impression on a woman's heart and mind.

Twenty-some years later, I had the pleasure to interview the Blake twins, Peter and Paul, for a newspaper profile. Two of thirteen children, their parents founded the orchard in 1946, the year my husband was born.

Blake's Johnny Appleseed logo personifies their mission, longevity, and history as growers. Their farm model and commitment to serving families good food and a happy adventure influenced my interest to develop a small lavender farm. This led to growing fruits and vegetables.

It's exciting for a person who grows lettuces and loves to cook and bake to walk into an establishment that sells blackberry vinaigrette and farm-made pies and cookies. Oatmeal raisin an inch thick!

But first, my nose found the strawberries. What a gastronomical feast hovering over flats filled to the brim. Endless possibilities!

I carried eight quarts of ripe, juicy, delicious fruit to the cashier. While I waited for her to package two cookies, I tasted a berry. Two. Three.

You awaken your natural senses when you stroll through an open-air farmers market. Grounded to the turned earth with the sun above, the colors, textures, and shapes of food ask you to pause and admire the architecture and personality of a Vidalia onion and green bean.

Standing close to the source of our nourishment on a remarkable July day evokes a sense of well-being. This romance with food buoys you through the task of washing, hulling, slicing, and freezing berries.

I felt the tingle of fulfillment when I ladled sliced, sweetened strawberries over scoops of lavender lemon ice cream. The flavors were worth every penny and minute in the kitchen.

"Why don't we grow strawberries?" my husband asked.

I vacillated with a mouthful of magic. Did I dare spoil the moment and remind him that growing strawberries is labor intensive like lavender?

Dear Reader, we consumed our dessert in absolute bliss. Thanks to Debbi, I've stowed away several quarts in the freezer for repeat performances.

No, we didn't miss strawberry season. The scent of strawberry jam lingers in the kitchen.

Email Iris at irisleeu@sbcglobal.net.

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