One of the many joys of summer is that it is berry filled. The end of June is the kick-off to strawberry season here in Maine. There is nothing better than enjoying them freshly picked, but you have to be quick. At only 3 to 4 weeks long, the strawberry season is short, like most things in Maine.
The strawberry season generally runs from the end of June to the end of July. This year was a bit of a late start because of our cool spring but they’re ripening now and I’m looking forward to a visit to the farm soon.
Last year on July 4th weekend, my youngest daughter and I ventured out to Maxwell’s Farm in Cape Elizabeth and picked a heaping flat of strawberries. Fresh strawberries are amazing, but you need to enjoy them as soon as possible after picking. The shelf life is short-lived which is generally not a problem at my house because they are devoured rapidly especially around the Fourth when we usually have a full house.
After a fun stop for lunch at Kettle Cove Cafe & Creamery, we headed to the farm. Maxwell’s has multiple field locations during the season, and we had a little bit of trouble finding this one. Initially, we plugged the address into our GPS which delivered us too a random roadside location. After backtracking, we spotted signs posted in the area, directing us to the field that was ready for picking on this particular Saturday morning.
Since the field location can vary depending on which ones have ripe berries, it is always a good idea to check Maxwell’s Farm’s Facebook Page before heading out. They also have a strawberry hotline that you can call (207) 799-3383.
We went last year on a warm, sunny day. It was perfect weather to be outside although cloudy days can often be even better for picking as the strawberries stay cooler. The fields are large and expansive with long rows of green. Even when there are crowds, there are usually plenty of vacant rows waiting for eager pickers.
There are both quart containers as well as flats available at the farm. We opted for a flat last year. We randomly wandered down one of the empty aisles and took inventory of the ratio of red to white berries. The vines were dotted with the intense red fruit and filling our container was easy, quick work. It was so effortless, and everything smelled so delicious, that we may have picked a bit more than we needed, or at least that’s what it seemed when, after placing our box on the scale, we learned we had $27 worth of strawberries.
The price listed on their website for 2017 is $2.85/pound.
I was on a mission to not let one berry go to waste so we headed to nearby Alewives Brook Farm for some rhubarb, that other in-season item that pairs so well with strawberries. We turned down the long winding, driveway to Alewives Brook Farm and drove the gauntlet of chickens to get to the farm store. At points, I’m not even sure my car was moving forward as I was going so slow to avoid the untimely death to one of the many fowl residents.
I had never made a strawberry rhubarb pie as I’m not really a fan of pie. Still it seemed like a classic way to use some of our newly picked strawberries, and a traditional dessert for our Independence Day festivities.
I was blessed with two amazing grandmothers both of whom had unique strengths. The grandmother who was considered more of the cook in our family left behind only a few recipes. Being a natural cook she made everything from memory. But, my other grandmother left behind a little red notebook filled with jotted down recipes and notes of things I’m not sure she ever made but clearly had caught her interest. I’ve never used any of the recipes in my own cooking although I keep the notebook in my kitchen next to my own cookbooks because it makes me smile every time I see it.
As I embarked on my baking odyssey, I scanned through the booklet to see if my grandmother had any pie recipes that I could try. Amazingly, I found entries for rhubarb pie and strawberry rhubarb pie listed across the top of consecutive pages in her familiar writing. Sadly, the notes were not extensive enough for me, a novice pie maker to attempt, and a few of the ingredients confusing, so instead I opted to use this recipe, Grandma’s Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie from the Food Network website.
I doubled the recipe and dove into an evening of pie making. I rinsed the strawberries and quickly sliced them into smaller chunks. I hadn’t handled rhubarb since I was a young girl and I use to dip it into sugar to enjoy as a quick snack It grew in large, wild bunches, along the side of the garage at my childhood home. I’d forgotten how sour rhubarb was but that’s one of the reasons it pairs so well with the sweetness of the strawberries.
After cleaning and prepping the rhubarb, I tossed the vegetable and fruit together in a large metal bowl and sprinkled seasoning into the mix. I spooned the mixture on top of the pie crusts, and layered another crust on top. After putting them in the oven, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.
I was happy with how they came out of the oven although, I admit, they were not especially fancy. I never tasted them myself, that whole “I don’t eat pie” thing, but was given a thumbs up by many of my guests so I think the recipe is a keeper.
Even after making my two pies, my box-o-strawberries was still pretty full so I needed a more extensive plan to use them up. I ended up baking a couple of strawberry breads . The recipe was heavy on cinnamon which I was a little unsure on, but it did make for a tasty breakfast treat.
I served the rest of the strawberries during our holiday celebration and as the weekend came to a close, only had a small amount of leftover strawberries remaining which I froze and used later to make a few more breakfast breads. Happily, none of my strawberries went to waste.
While it was fun to cook with the strawberries, the absolutely best part was eating them fresh. They were bursting with flavor – juicy, sweet and delicious. I’m excited to try a few new strawberry recipes this year.
I originally posted this blog last year and have updated it for the current strawberry season. One of the comments that I got previously, included a recipe for a non-pie way to enjoy strawberries and rhubarb together. I might have to give that one a try this year.
Do you enjoy picking fresh strawberries? Do you have a favorite strawberry recipe?
|things to know|
|Address||112 Spurwink Ave.
Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107
|Website||Maxwell’s Strawberry Farm|
|Favorite ♥||Fresh Strawberries|