I can't resist stopping at roadside stands, especially when traveling. When my sister I took a road trip a few years ago from Virginia to the Delaware shore to visit our friend Lori, she patiently stopped at just about every stand, "just in case you want to check out what else each stand had". It was a memorable trip. We even stopped at an apple orchard so I could pick apples! Thanks, Susan, for indulging me.
The farm stand above is located along a stretch of a two lane road in Suffolk County, Long Island, New York. It was right beside a "pick your own" berry patch. And I couldn't resist stopping to snag a few baskets, even though it was pouring rain. If I had enough time, I would have picked several bucketfuls.
Perfectly ripe berries--I must have eaten a dozen and my t-shirt lovingly reflected the berry stains. Nothing like a fresh picked berry.
I first picked strawberries at the Greig "Pick-Your-Own" Farm in the town of Red Hook which is located in the picturesque Hudson Valley in New York. The strawberry season is short in the northeast and I'd put it on my calendar to call the farm when the berry patch was ready. This third generation family farm is 78 years old and a real gem. Pick your own also applies to other fruits and veggies, including asparagus, blueberries, blackberries, apples and pumpkins. www.greigfarm.com. During that first visit to Greigs, I picked far more berries than expected ( I felt like a kid in a candy store) and came home with an overabundance of strawberries which I shared with friends and neighbors.
When I moved to the Midwest, I sought out local farms and went on several "pick my own" adventures. Local favorites include Rittman Orchards & Farm Market www.rittmanorchards.com, Fitch's Farm Market www.fitchsfarmmarket.com, Blue Jay Orchard and Patterson Fruit Farm www.pattersonfarm.com. I also frequent several farmer markets and pick up berries, whenever they're in season.
Last year I took the day off for my birthday and ventured out to Blue Jay Farm in Hiram, Ohio to pick blueberries. Located about 30 minutes outside of Cleveland, it was like being in another world. Once leaving the city, the land opens up for as wide as the eye can see to fields, open spaces and farmland. The Orchard also grows peaches, blueberries and is well known for its apples.
The blueberry patch is netted all around to prevent the birds from plucking the berries. The birds were the only sound I heard while I picked a pail of ripe, deep blue berries still covered with a light dew from the previous nights rain shower. It was almost meditative to move from bush to bush in total silence. The reward was some of the best local berries I’ve ever eaten. A blessing to see where food is grown. I even wore my favorite sunhat! Loved the experience.
Fresh picked are the best way to enjoy these beauties. However, strawberry shortcake is a family favorite and I do love making berry breakfast bowls, ice cream sodas, coffee cakes, scones and smoothies as often as possible.
My berry smoothie...
Here's my recipe for shortcakes--works well with strawberries, blueberries or peaches.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a large cookie sheet or baking tray for easier cleanup.
2-1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder (I use Calumet)
1 teaspoon granulated salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 cup whole milk or buttermilk
Combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and baking soda into a medium bowl. Whisk lightly with a fork to remove any lumps.
Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips or a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal--it'll look crumbly. Work quickly as you don't want the butter to melt.
Mix in milk, a little at a time with your hands or a fork until just combined. Don't over mix. Add a drop or two or milk if the mix seems dry--it should be a tad moist.
Drop dough by golfball size spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. Leave an inch or so between each biscuit. At this point, you can freeze the biscuits on a cookie sheet until frozen. Remove and place in a ziplock bag, making sure to remove as much of the air out of the bag as possible.
Bake on the middle rack of your oven for 12-14 minutes until golden brown. Best served warm, right out of the oven.
Split the shortcakes and fill with homemade whipped cream (or ice cream) and fresh berries.
Let me know if you have a favorite berry or recipe to share. Love to hear from you!