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Book of Days

BOOK OF DAYS: A POET AND NATURALIST TRIES TO FIND POETRY IN EVERY DAY

Filtering by Tag: strawberry

July 6: Strawberries

Kristen Lindquist

We get many of our summer vegetables from a local farmer, and for a little extra, we can go out to the farm and pick our own strawberries. The bleak, rainy weather of late spring and early summer delayed the berries a few weeks, but now these ripe red jewels are shining from beneath healthy leaves. I picked three quarts today to eat fresh, eating a few as I moved down the rows. The sun beat down, and surrounding the gardens, thick grass waved in fields amid vetch, day lilies, and black-eyed susans. A phoebe watched from the wire fence. Does anything taste more like summer than a sun-warmed, perfectly ripe strawberry?

I like to accessorize to coordinate with my fruit
Here's tonight's dessert:
mouthful of a summer's day--
fruit, garden, fields, sun.

June 27: Repetition

Kristen Lindquist

The red-eyed vireo may repeat his song 20,000 times during the course of a summer day. I was thinking of that as I heard one singing off in the trees, as I picked what felt like my 20,000th strawberry in my friend's garden today. We've had perfect strawberry weather this June, and my friend's patch was overflowing. She needed help. After enjoying a breakfast of Belgian waffles with strawberries, the two of us picked 23 quarts over several hours--punctuated, of course, by a lunch of yogurt, honey, and... yes, strawberries.

There's something lulling about repeating a gesture over and over, even as your back and legs ache. It was warm but not overly sunny, either, which made it a pleasure to be out doing something productive in the garden. And of course, knowing I was going to take home some of these luscious fruits was added incentive. I lost myself in the activity, only occasionally (because I'm a birder and can't help it) becoming aware of birdsong in the surrounding woods. The red-eyed vireo, for example. Or the robins nesting nearby. Or a bluebird. Once I looked up and saw a hawk circling overhead. The setting was bucolic--peas in bloom, corn almost knee-high, terraced perennial beds in full bloom, butterflies fluttering over fields spangled with wildflowers. Who could call this work, this crawling over strawberry runners, squatting in the dirt, plucking ripe berries from amidst the foliage and dropping them with a plunk in a pail?

The real work started when I got all those berries home. I dropped off a bowlful at my parents' house, and gave away as many as I could to my neighbor with many children--those growing bodies need the vitamin C. But even after putting some aside for my cereal over the next couple of days, I still had a heap. These I rinsed, spread out on a towel, hulled one by one--the repetition less enjoyable than the picking but meditative nonetheless--and bagged for the freezer. Two quarts that will undoubtedly form the base of some wicked good smoothies later this summer.

For each berry picked,
vireo sings one more phrase
in praise of summer.

June 3: Strawberries

Kristen Lindquist

After several months of eating those pale, oversized strawberries "from away," I was in raptures this morning over my first taste of the first summer strawberries from Beth's Farmstand in Warren. Nothing beats a sun-ripened, locally grown berry eaten right from the box--a true mouthful of ambrosia. I was immediately carried back to my childhood, when it was considered a privilege to be allowed to pick the strawberries in my grandmother's carefully tended patch. And of course my sister and I ate our fill while doing so. If I close my eyes, I can feel the heat on the pine needles spread on the berry beds, hear the sharp chipping of the chipmunk waiting for its share, and taste that sweet, perfectly ripe berry on the tip of my tongue. (My sister turns 40 today, so the memory broadens to include the long summer days we spent playing on our grandparents' saltwater farm so long ago...)

Some native Americans referred to the full moon in June as the Strawberry Moon. I can only imagine how amazing those tiny wild strawberries must have tasted to them after months without fresh fruit. They're only the size of a fingernail, but those berries pack a lot of flavor.

Once on a birding field trip in the boreal forest of Downeast Maine, we were walking along a dirt road looking for black-backed woodpeckers among the spruce trees, and I paused to pick a few wild strawberries. Who can resist? The trip leader snapped at me, "Leave those for the birds!" I could only laugh, feeling pretty certain that if the birds were that hungry, they'd have beaten me to those two or three little berries before I was even awake that morning.

A friend told me today that his berries are starting to ripen, early for his garden. He said his first berry was ripe on May 31, the earliest he'd ever eaten a home-grown strawberry. He's already daydreaming about the first strawberry shortcake of summer.

Still warm from the sun,
ripe strawberry disappears
into the child's mouth.