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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Strawberry Patch

My last few visits to the Tuesday/Thursday farmers' market have baffled me. Granted, it's very early in the growing season and the weather has been chilly, but there hasn't been much local produce to choose from. The early season sparse vendor count added to the confusion.  Elmwood Stock Farm has always been there selling eggs, meat, and early lettuces.  A few other vendors dot the parking lot hawking melons, apples, and tomatoes from other states.

The past couple of weeks, Bybee Farm Produce has set up shop on one side of the parking lot, disconnected from the other vendors offering fresh strawberries. Really? It just seemed odd.  With cold rainy weather, a huge table covered with pint baskets overflowing with gorgeous fresh strawberries just seemed weird.  This past Tuesday, I finally asked them what was going on.  How did they have fresh strawberries so early in May? They proudly display their "100% Growers" sign, which means they can only sell what they grow.  Got it. I expected a hydroponic answer of some kind.  Nope.  "We've had them coming in for a  couple of weeks now.", was the answer I recieved.  Sold.

As I tumbled a basket of strawberries into my canvas Martha Stewart Living tote bag, an older gentleman in front of me muttered," Better run to Kroger for a 5 pound bag of sugar to sweeten 'em."

Nervous laughter.

Once back in my warm car, I started eating the strawberries.  The first one was tart.  Sucker.  Fell for it, didn't you?  The second one squirted sweet strawberry juice down my chin.  The third one did the same. They were fantastic. By the time I got to work, my fingers were tinted strawberry red.

I don't bake.  I don't even  pretend to bake, so the prospect of strawberry shortcakes or scones was out of the question.

I certainly wasn't going to macerate them in 5 pounds of sugar.

I simply sliced the strawberries in half, unhulled, and drizzled 8 year old Olivia Bella Balsamico di Medena over them.  After the intensely sweet aged balsamic vinegar oozed down the strawberries and puddled onto the plate, I showered them with freshly cracked Tellicherry peppercorns.  Yep.

The pungent fruity black pepper added  crunchy spice to the sweet tart balsamico-draped strawberries. 

They were wet and juicy with aromatic sweet heat.

Early season strawberries. Fabulous. Go figure.

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