The sweet taste of summer
You have to admire a man that plants close to four acres of strawberries just because he likes to pick berries.
That’s the story Steve Leach and his family told me when I visited Clearwater Farm one day last week. I was there to pick some fresh berries at their U-Pick patch just outside of Three Lakes and the place definitely brought back some good memories.
In all honestly, it was strawberries that financed a lot of my college education. While I was attending these places of higher education during the winter months, in the summer I worked at Porter’s Patch, a U-Pick strawberry operation just down the road from my house. I loved that job.
Lots of memories came flooding back as I knelt between two rows on a soft bed of straw, plucking glistening, ruby red jewels and placing them gently in my container. I lifted my nose to the breeze, taking in the tantalizing aroma of the fruit as birds chirped melodiously in a nearby field. I was so grateful for this opportunity because I know just how much work goes in to a U-Pick patch.
There’s the planning, the plowing and planting. Seems like every wild woodland creature likes strawberries so there is fencing work and the never ending job of weeding and more weeding.
But the end results are so worth it because no one comes to a U-Pick patch in a bad mood. Everyone is smiling and happy to be harvesting a fruit that may go into the making of jam, shortcakes, pies or jellies. While I picked I could hear the laughter of kids a couple of rows away and a dad light-heartedly chastising his youngsters for eating the harvest on the spot.
Every year, I try and make a batch of jam and I always relish that first cold and snowy winter day when I open a jar of that goodness. As I pull the lid off, I imagine a little bit of summer releasing into my world and when I spread that sweet, fruity mix onto a piece of toast or a muffin my eyes close with blissful pleasure. It never gets old.
Those kinds of experiences are exactly what the Leach family hopes their customers enjoy. This family which includes Steve, his wife, Jennie and their children Hannah and Ethan all worked hard to establish their patch. This is the second year for the strawberries and they also raise grass fed beef and in the coming years they hope to grow blueberries too.
I had to smile as Hannah recited the six different varieties of berries that the family planted. Their names roll off the tongue as sweetly as the taste of the fruit…Honeyoye, Mesabi, Winona, Jewel, Annapolis and Wendy. It took an entire week for the family to set all these plants that range from early to late producers and many more hours to construct a fence around the patch. But judging from the smiles of their customers, their hard work is paying off.
This week I’ve included two interesting strawberry recipes. The Fruit Pizza is a family favorite and the Strawberry Chia Seed Refrigerator Jam recipe is one a Facebook friend posted that I am eager to try. Chia seeds are tasteless but they swell when they are in moisture providing the gelling factor that makes good jam.
So my heartfelt thanks goes out to the Leach family for providing me with such a beautiful and tasty harvest in addition to stirring up such wonderful memories. I will be thinking of you come January when the cold wind blows and the snow piles high as I spread a little bit of summer into my world.
For more information about Clearwater Farm strawberries and directions to the place call their berry hot line at 855-479-3276.
Strawberry Chia Seed Refrigerator Jam
2 ¼ cups quartered strawberries
1 to 3 Tbs. honey
2 ½ Tbs. chia seeds
Place the fruit in a pan and heat slowly, mashing the berries into a chunky consistency. Bring the berries to a slow boil then add the honey to taste. Add the chia seeds and let the jam cool. It will thicken as it cools. Spoon into jars with lids and keep refrigerated.
1 container of refrigerated sugar cookie dough
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 (8 oz.) container frozen whip topping, thawed
2 cups sliced strawberries
Blueberries, kiwi, raspberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the cookie dough into a 12-inch pizza pan. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until set. Mix the cream cheese and whip topping thoroughly. When the dough has cooled spread the cream cheese mixture on the dough. Use the fruit to decorate the pizza.