RIPE for STRAWBERRIES
Whether you’re tossing them with baby spinach and candied walnuts in a summer salad, blending them with milk and yogurt for a lo-cal smoothie, or drizzling them over shortcake for that classic and well-loved dessert, many will agree that strawberries must be one of Mother Nature’s greatest achievements.
But alas, the strawberry season is just three weeks long — not nearly enough time for those who can’t get enough of that sweet stuff.
And this year the strawberry crop came in a little early, said Gary Bardenhagen, owner of Bardenhagen Farms. The season usually starts on the first day of summer, June 20, and lasts until about the Fourth of July. This year the first Bardenhagen berries were picked on June 8, and the harvest will last until about the end of the month.
“I can eat Early Glows all season long and never stop,” Bardenhagen said. “They’re sweet enough to eat right out of the box.”
Jewels, on the other hand, are a large, plump berry that people like because of its size and juiciness.
A cup of raw strawberries has about 50 calories, three grams of fiber, one gram of protein and no fat. And that cup will give a person about 150 percent of their daily recommended intake of Vitamin C. It’s rosy-red glow also means the fruit is packed with antioxidants that work to keep a person young-looking.
Linda Mikowski, owner of the Covered Wagon Market & Bakery at 8996 E. Duck Lake Road, makes a fresh strawberry run every day and is going through at least five flats per day. Some are baked up in pies and some are sold as is to go along with the biscuits Mikowski also makes daily during the short-lived season.
While Mikowski doesn’t actually dish up the strawberry shortcake for her customers, her bakery and store has everything a strawberry-lover could ever need.
“I have the berries, the shortcake, the whipped cream and Moomers ice cream, so you can get all the fixings,” she said.
Mikowski and her husband, Greg Mikowski, have been in business for 28 years, starting with a you-pick strawberry patch. She also spent summers as a child picking fruit.
“I know and love strawberries,” she said. “It’s a natural fruit. If you put sugar on them you don’t need much. From a market point of view they’re a big draw, and that’s good for business.”
The Mikowskis opened their market in 1994. They sell everything from tomatoes and green peppers to pumpkins and squash, though their specialty is sweet corn. They don’t grow strawberries any more, but sell all local fruit, including blackberries, raspberries, apricots, peaches, apples and, of course, cherries.
Mikowski gets up at 5 a.m. every day to do all the baking except for the doughnuts, which Greg makes. She bakes about 10 pies a day, ramping that number up to 30-35 pies during the peak season.
Strawberry shortcake can also be had at the Leelanau Pie & Pastry Company, which Gene and Joan Peyerk have owned for a little more than one year. Gene Peyerk said strawberry shortcake made from scratch and baked fresh every day is a big draw — when the berries are also fresh picked, that is.
The shortcake can be frozen and saved for another day, he said. One couple who has a strawberry patch in their back yard visits the bakery about every other day during strawberry season to buy out all of his shortcakes, taking them home and tossing them in the freezer. Peyerk said he tries to make a little extra when he knows they’re coming in so that everyone can have a taste.
Strawberries can also be frozen. Start with the freshest berries and just wash them in cold water, hull them, drain them well and pack them in a freezer bag either whole or cut up. Make sure the bag is labeled with the contents and the date.
Ingredients 1 pound flour 1 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. salt 6 1/2 tbsp. sugar 7 oz. butter 2 eggs 4 1/2 oz. milk Melted butter Sugar
Directions: Combine flour, baking powder, salt,
sugar and butter and mix until fat is cut in. Add eggs and milk, stir just until batter comes together. Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness on a floured surface; cut with a biscuit cutter. Bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes until brown. Brush with melted butter and top with sugar as soon as the shortcakes come out of the oven.
— Recipe from Gene Peyerk, owner of the Leelanau Pie & Pastry Company, Lake Leenanau
Ingredients: 5 cups flour 1/4 cup baking powder 2 tsp. salt 2 tsp. sugar 1/2 cup shortening 2 cups milk
Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl; cut the shortening into the flour with a pastry blender. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; pour the milk into the well and mix together. Don’t mix until smooth, a little dry flour is OK. Pat the dough onto a slightly floured table until it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Cut with floured biscuit cutter or the top of a glass. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for about 10 to 14 minutes at 350 degrees or until slightly browned. Makes about 2 dozen. These freeze very well.
— Recipe from Linda Mikowski, owner of the Covered Wagon Bakery & Market, Suttons Bay