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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Best of All Possible Berries


Izaac WaltonHandful of sweetness in The Compleat Angler, his laudatory book on the glories of fishing (next only in popularity to the Biblical account of  big fish and fishing [Jonah, 1:17; Chapter 2 ]) stated": “…we may say of angling as Dr. Boteler said of strawberries: ‘Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did….’” Now those green marbles I mentioned in an earlier post are flushed with red and bursting with Valley sweetness.

Last Sunday Gladys and I visited the strawberry field at Broers Farms. The previous day had been warm and sunny. In appreciation the berries had plumped and reddened. If you have never had a ripe Berry Pickersstrawberry plucked fresh from the vine, you have yet to taste heaven. Those luscious looking berries on display in the grocery produce section? Those beautiful hunks of berry flesh out of California, berries big as summer plums ? Oh, the false advertising!  “Beauty is as beauty tastes,” is what I say. Only a bath in dark chocolate can give those massive fruits sweetness and flavor. Oh, the disappointment!

The berries are just coming on, and I have to row hop to seek ripe fruit. The day is cool and overcast, not good weather for bringing sugar and color to the berries. Broers' Berries I resist the temptation to eat a berry. As in the potato chip proverb: “You can’t eat just one,” vine ripened strawberries are addictive. If I’m going to pick enough for strawberry jam, strawberry pancakes, strawberry shortcake, strawberry syrup, strawberry ice cream, strawberry scones, strawberries ‘n cream, strawberry-rhubarb  pie, I can’t succumb to tasting the goods. Fortunately the recent heavy rains discourage temptation; the grime of the field coats the berries, and strawberry-flavored sand, though tasty, is hardly tooth-friendly. Row hopping through the field takes me about an hour to pick a level flat of berries. In the midst of such plenty, one shouldn’t forget that picking is but half the labor: berries need to be washed, stemmed, and otherwise eaten fresh or somehow preserved. “Just one more,” I tell myself as I discover yet another juicy morsel beneath the leaves. Finally restraint, “Stop, already,”and the flat is ready for weighing.  The fruits of my morning’s labors: eight pounds of ruddy sweetness. Gladys and I wend our way back home where I exchange her for the truck so I  can retrieve my morning’s treasure.A morning's work 

I return and pay Ginnifer the berry lady twelve dollars for the produce,  a price more than fair for such bounty. 

Valley Berries

The family farm is a dying species, and I think how lucky we are to have a place in the Valley to pick fruit fresh from the field, to see how it’s grown and ripened on the vine, to select and pluck the fruit you want. So much more rewarding than picking up a clamshell of bland enticements from the supermarket. “Take the ‘straw’ out of ‘strawberry,’” I say, and replace it with flavor, replace it with sweetness, replace it with the goodness of the Earth.

I’ll close this post with a recipe: How to Make a Strawberry.

Plant an acre or two of berry plants.

Add the following:

Dark, rich Tualco Valley soil

A Month of Tualco Valley sunbeams

Rain: shower lightly, please

Bushels of kisses from Valley bees

Mix ingredients in equal proportions. For best results, stir in extra sunbeams.


If you don’t have a green thumb, Broers Farms will cater your vine-ripened strawberries. Get them while you can. Strawberry fields might last forever, but the season and its bounty doesn’t. Call Broer Farms and ask for Ginnifer or Ed: (360-794-5778).  The Berry Lady

The Berry Man

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