strawberry season sneaks up on us and does not linger; it is sensitive to the cold and it is fleeting. the berries can be quickly saturated, left waterlogged and tasteless by a day of rain. gardeners with strawberries generally keep close watch on the berries as they ripen with daily trips to the bed to gather the ripest, reddest, plumpest fruits. those that make it back to the kitchen may become any number of treats. sorbet, ice cream, jam or cake-too many choices and honestly, most are consumed as they are picked; who can resist just picked berries? not me, that is a fact.
like little red hearts on a vine, they ripen quickly and if you are not vigilant, you will find yourself battling squirrels, chipmunks, slugs and snails for the opportunity to taste the fruits of your labor. we tried netting to keep the squirrels out this year. the net works well-it traps the squirrels in the bed with the strawberries so that they get their fill while they search for the way back out…
pretty little flowers. do you notice the similarity to the bloom of a wild rose? they are both members of the rosaceae family. but the connections do not stop there. also part of the family is the genus Prunus and it includes nearly 430 species including plums, cherries, peaches, apricots and almonds. amazing and true! this is such a diverse family of plants that includes herbs, shrubs and trees which the majority are deciduous or, they lose their leaves each year but some are evergreens. while many of the members are ornamental, quite a few produce edible fruits. apples, pears, quince, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, raspberries, blackberries, loquats, strawberries and almonds are just a few of the members of the genus Prunus. and there you have it, the reason i tend to add a little rosewater to dishes that feature red berries!
our little bed is in it’s third year and the plants are well established. we have picked several pints and have enjoyed snacking on them. since i never head over to the demonstration garden (the one i help maintain as a member of the master gardeners of davidson county) without a cake, i decided to use some of the abundance to bake a cake to share with my fellow volunteers. after all, this is the south and it doesn’t get much more southern than a strawberry cake in the month of may!
- preheat the oven to 350. grease and flour the pan and set it aside.
- place the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a large food processor and pulse to combine.
- add the eggs, one at a time with the machine running to form a smooth mixture.
- stop the machine and dump the berries in. pulse the machine to mix in the berries. it will puree a small amount, chop up most and leave a few large chunks-refer to the photo above and do not puree until it is all one texture.
- scrape the mixture out into a large mixing bowl.
- place the flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a sifter or a mesh strainer and sift it over the batter in the bowl.
- fold the mixture a few times, sprinkle the buttermilk over the top and fold together until no streaks remain. scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly in the pan.
- bake until a pick inserted into the cake comes out clean, about one hour. cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes and then invert it onto a rack to cool completely before cutting-if you can wait that long!