It’s that time of year—the berries ripe for picking, as well as many other fruits and vegetables here in WNY. Fortunately, there are many U-Pick farms in the area, to allow you to be out in the field, savoring the sweet scent as you scavenge for the perfect fruit. Although strawberry and apple picking (in the fall) seem to be the most well-known, many farms have other fruits you can pick yourself, including raspberries, blueberries and cherries. Pickyourown.org is a great tool for finding local farms in the area. Most entries have hours and phones numbers listed, as well as a guide to what the farm grows. Of course, you should always call the farm before making the trip out there—that way you are certain the farm is open and the fruit or vegetable is ready for picking.
Last week I visited Thorpe’s in East Aurora, a certified organic farm, to pick strawberries. They do not use any chemicals on or near the plants, and they even have a sign asking pickers not to smoke around the farm. Picking your own fruit is a great way to meet people in the field and learn what they make with the quarts of strawberries they are picking and possibly even swap recipes. A favorite response I came across was “jam.” I did find out that there are many different things to make with strawberries, and our four quarts (only $10 at $2.50 a quart!) left us with two log cakes, two pies (see recipes below), chocolate covered strawberries and some left over.
Before you are out in the field under the hot sun, you should know how much you need and what you are going to make. Once fruit is picked, it will not last long. Remember not to wash the fruit until you are ready to use it to prevent spoiling, and strawberries can keep in the fridge for a few days after picking. It is best to go picking in the morning, when it is not so hot as to affect the plants, and remember to wear sunscreen. It is wise to take your time and find the berries and that are ripe (a guide can be found on that website), which may mean that you will want to bring along a beverage. If you notice fruit that is damaged or rotting, help the farmers out by pulling them off so that it won’t spread to the rest of the bunch.
Picking your own fruit is a great for both kids and adults. It helps kids understand where their food comes from—certainly not “the grocery store,” and it help them gain an appreciation for the care as well as the fun that can go into it. Keep an eye out for the upcoming raspberry, blueberry and cherry seasons, and prepare for them by finding a new recipe to try out!
Strawberry Log Cake
(adapted from pastrywiz.com)
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 oz package cream cheese
4 oz cool whip
¼ c powdered sugar
about 3 cups chopped strawberries
To make Cake:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line 18 x 12 in jelly roll sheet pan (or you can use a cookie sheet that has sides) with aluminum foil. Coat with vegetable cooking spray.
In large bowl beat yolks and eggs at high speed about 5 minutes until thicker and lemon-colored. Gradually beat in granulated sugar until mixture is pale and thick. Gently fold in dry ingredients except powdered sugar to blend thoroughly. Fold in water, oil and vanilla. Spread batter evenly in pan. Bake in center of oven about 10 minutes or until springy to the touch.
While in the oven, coat a clean dishtowel with powdered sugar. Flip hot cake onto towel close to one long edge. Gently peel off foil. Trim 1/2 inch off each short side of cake. Starting from long side, tightly roll cake and towel. Set on rack to cool completely.
To make filling:
Beat softened cream cheese. Add cool whip and powdered sugar. Fold in fruit. Gently unroll the cake and spread filling evenly. Reroll, with seam facing downwards when finished. Dust with powdered sugar and refrigerate. Garnish with strawberries.
Chocolate or Oreo crust
3.4 oz Chocolate Pudding
Strawberries with stems cut off
Make pudding according to package directions for pie filling, using slightly less milk for a thicker filling, if desired. Set in refrigerator. After 30 minutes, spread pudding into pie crust. Top with cool whip and decorate with strawberries, pointed ends up.
This recipe is also good using a graham cracker crust and vanilla pudding.
posted by Ashley Zengerski