ripe strawberries

strawberries in June

On Saturday afternoon, my friend Tea and I walked around the farmers’ market slowly. Even though it was towards the end of market day, the farmers all looked happy, their stands nearly empty. The sun shone on our skin. People thronged, eager to buy cherries from Yakima and the first real bunches of spinach available this year. I filled my new bag, the one Tea gave me, with meat from Skagit River Ranch, Port Madison Farm goat cheese, and vegetables galore. Just as I thought we could go, I realized: I hadn’t bought strawberries yet.

Toward the back, a Mexican-American farmer stood at his stall, only four small pints of strawberries left. We gestured, and he started giggling. Puzzled at first, we followed his hand. He had taped three strawberries to the branches of a potted plant next to him. “Strawberry tree,” he whispered, and all three of us laughed. I bought two pints; Tea bought one. The shopping stroll was done.

At home, I rinsed the strawberries and stepped outside into the backyard with a bowl full of berries. The sun filtered through the trees and landed on my skin. I took a bite of a small berry, one that could never make it to the store. Sweetness lapped over my tongue, a burst of sunlight condensed into a bite of fruit the size of two seconds. Rich, full — call it what you want. The words will never match the experience.

And immediately I thought of the first time I bought wild strawberries. In Paris, on an early Sunday morning, wandering through a market by myself. Are markets open there on Sundays? Perhaps it was Saturday. Was it May or June? I don’t know. I don’t even know which neighborhood that clean market gleamed in. Normally, I write down street names, remember details like photographs, harken back memories with the names of people I will probably never see again. But that day — that bite of wild strawberry, offered in the callused palm of a farmer on a slow market morning — obliterated everything else for me. In that minute, I was simply someone standing in the sunshine, eating a strawberry.

Yesterday was a new day for the Chef, his first Father’s Day. (Little Bean may not be in the world yet, but we already feel like parents.) After a morning of listening to songs that made us teary, we drove down to visit my family, the sunny sky without clouds stunning after weeks of rain and 55 degrees. We couldn’t help but singing. At the family gathering, there were long laughs, goofy lawn games played with focused intensity, barbequed salmon, French cheese, Elliott in the backyard splashing everyone from his pool, and long games of Wii. Perfect, in other words.

Soon after we arrived, I pulled the last of the farmers’ market strawberries from the bag. I wanted to share them with my parents. “Open up,” I said, and fed a strawberry to my father from above, like a baby bird. In his usual contained manner, he said, “That’s good.”

I gave one to my mother, sharing that the strawberries had been picked the morning before, that I had taken them from the hands of the farmer that afternoon, and we were only a day away from eating them. “Really, they taste different than the ones from California, the ones we all ate in April
She took one in her mouth, and after the first chew, closed her eyes. “Mmmmmm….,” she said, not trying to put words to it. Her face softened. She sounded like me, that day in Paris. And I knew, as the sun shone through the window and landed on our hands, that my mother’s conception of strawberries would forever be changed.

This is why I adore food so much. Oh sure, I love the tasting, the smelling, the debriefing afterwards. But in a wholly humble and awed sense, I am amazed at how food gathers all the parts of ourselves into one moment. And we are new again. The farmers’ silly jokes stick with me, Paris leaps up, and my mother tastes a food differently now because I offered some to her. I am three, and 33, and right now, and feeding my child in the future. Nothing else can stitch together my life like food.

Especially ripe strawberries.

How about you? Strawberry ideas to make new memories?

53 comments on “ripe strawberries

  1. Tori

    Yesterday, we celebrated Father’s Day and a college graduation. I took a strawberry rhubarb crisp made with fruit I’d bought the day before at the market. People were wheeling flats of strawberries from every stand in the market. Big signs with “Yes they’re Hoods” were scrawled on paper bags everywhere hanging haphazardly from the tents.

    I bought to many berries to pack into the crisp and took the rest with me to the party. My MIL had some berries sliced up on the table that she had bought packed in a plastic clamshell direct from California. I set my fresh berries next to them and stood to watch what happened. Word spread like wildfire and soon my niece was running around with the pints in her hands making sure everyone got at least one.

    The crisp was a hit but the fresh berries stole the show.

  2. Karis

    2 cups of cashews, 4 cups of water, a splash of vanilla, a pinch of sugar, 3/4ish of a cupish of agave nectar and/or maple syrup, and a pint of washed strawberries.

    Blend for minutes, until everything is smooth. Taste. Adjust sweetener, vanilla, salt, strawberries as needed.


    Pour into waiting ice cream maker.

    Freeze and enjoy–GF, DF, alt-sugar friendly strawberry ice cream.

    Yummm. And if the strawberries can be Oregon-born, fresh picked, Mt. Hood variety berries? All the better.

  3. Nicola

    Not a recipe, but I too have wonderful memories of strawberries. My birthday is in July, perfect strawberry season in England. Every year of my childhood my grandmother, a wonderful baker, and I would go strawberry picking the day before my birthday and she would make me a strawberry cream sponge cake to have on my special day. I miss my grandmother and I miss those cakes, but the first strawberries of the season always take me back to those happy, happy times.

  4. mindy

    the kids and i just picked our first ripe strawberries from the garden yesterday. they taste even better in the sun with a little garden grit still on them. the kids saved the best looking ones for their dad – guess you could call it a late father’s day gift!

  5. Thomas Dzomba

    You reminded me of the anticipation we had as May approached when we were living in South Carolina. One of the highlights was visiting the strawberry patch in May and picking pint after pint of fresh strawberries. You are so right – they taste so much better right off the plant.

    Thanks for the memories.

  6. Summer

    I’m jealous. All the spinach here has run – we haven’t seen it at our local market in weeks. Tonight will be the last of the of the strawberries.

    But I had one of the first peaches of the season last week, thanks to the guy in the stall across from mine.

    Our market is All local food, and thus we live with North Carolina growing seasons. Last week I had baby onions and the real treat: fresh tomatoes.

    But I’m going to miss the strawberries. I’ve been eating as many as I could while they were in season.

  7. bakerina

    Strawberries are bittersweet for me this year. The New York locals are now in, and the farmer on whom I’ve had a low-grade crush for years is back to sell them to me. Normally I would buy them by the flat and turn them into jam, but this year I’ve sworn not to do any canning until after our move across the country, so no jam this year.

    I can, however, make Rhubarb and Strawberries, which is a signature dish of my much-missed Swedish great-grandmother, who died when I was 13. It’s sort of a compote and sort of a fruit soup, but not exactly either of them. Cleaned chopped rhubarb, half its weight in sugar, as many strawberries as you like, a little lemon juice if there’s too much sugar in the final mix. I made Greek yogurt parfaits with this lovely stuff last night.

    I will admit that when I buy the strawberries for this, I buy twice as much as I need for the R&S, because it’s a given that I’ll eat half of those berries out of hand. 😉

  8. Zoomie

    Here in northern California, my sweetest strawberry memory came at the tag end of the season in October when My Beloved and I drove down the coast toward Santa Cruz and stopped at a roadside stand whose sign shouted “Last Berries!” They were the sweetest ever, small but fully round with flavor and the expectation that we wouldn’t taste any more like that for six more months. Exquisite.

  9. Anonymous

    When my son was little, we took him strawberry picking. I can still see his little face tilted towards the sun, eyes closed, savoring the taste. He says – they’re hot – not spicy hot – sun hot. He wouldn’t eat a store bought strawberry for the rest of that summer.

  10. Lora

    I am fortunate enough at the moment to live in southern California, literally 2 blocks from a strawberry field. The guys pick only the number of berries they expect to sell in a day and sell them on the side of the road to passersby. Let’s just say I’ve been a bit of a glutton these past few weeks between the fresh berries straight from the field, homemade strawberry shortcake, and the freezer jam I made last week (do I dare mention that the jam is half gone and I haven’t actually put it ON anything?).

    But my favorite memory of strawberries is of the U-Pick farm I used to go to in Wisconsin. In fact, it’s still there and my best friend now takes her kids there to pick every June. There is somethine about bending low in the early morning sunlight, plucking perfectly ripe berries from the plant, eating a few on the sly. I can’t find anyplace out here that offers the same thing and I miss it.

    1. Mary

      WHat do you mean there’s no U-pick farms out there?? Time to move back to Wisconsin! 🙂

  11. La Niña

    The new issue of Sunset Magazine (Northwest edition) has a fabulous recipe for Yogurt Honey Jelly- a Greek dessert- that is topped with strawberries soaked in sugar and rose water… it’s totally divine and totally gluten free… I added candied rose petals instead of the plain rose petals suggested. It’s heaven in your mouth.

  12. Becky and the Beanstock

    Fresh strawberries, Greek yogurt, pecan pieces, bread crumbs from a whole grain loaf — yum. If it’s too dry, mash some of the berries and stir it into the bread.

    But, fresh strawberries are perfect as is, in my book. June is a happy month!

  13. Becky and the Beanstock

    Fresh strawberries, Greek yogurt, pecan pieces, bread crumbs from a whole grain loaf — yum. If it’s too dry, mash some of the berries and stir it into the bread.

    But, fresh strawberries are perfect as is, in my book. June is a happy month!

  14. Becky and the Beanstock

    Fresh strawberries, Greek yogurt, pecan pieces, bread crumbs from a whole grain loaf — yum. If it’s too dry, mash some of the berries and stir it into the bread.

    But, fresh strawberries are perfect as is, in my book. June is a happy month!

  15. Allison the Meep

    I’m kind of a strawberry purist. I have a hard time messing with the perfection that’s already there. But when I do, I enjoy a good strawberry shortcake.

    My fondest strawberry memories are as a 4 or 5 year old growing up in Florida, and going to the strawberry fields to pick huge basketfuls with my mom. We never went to the store to get our berries, we always went straight to the source.

  16. dänika


    When I was a little girl, my grandma made the best (BEST) strawberry jam. I remember sitting at the dinner table every Sunday at noon, cousins hurrying through to see who would snatch up the last white-floured dinner roll and strawberry jam.

    I never got to make strawberry jam with her; she had Alzheimer’s and started losing her memory quite early. I always wished I had gotten to, though; there are so many things I wish I’d gotten to do with her.

    Two weeks ago, I made my own strawberry jam – using the same recipe as Grandma did. It tastes wonderful, and I know that I have new memories associated with it, too; it’s not only Grandma’s strawberry jam now, but it’s the first jam I made, the jam we ate so much of (five pints in two and a half weeks? We should be ashamed! 😛 ) in our first home, our first married year.

    Food memories – smells, tastes, textures – are some of my favourite ones. mmmm…

  17. BeadWhisperer

    We bought some beautiful berries this past weekend at the Lewes, DE Farmer’s Market. Since we were camping, it just seemed like a good idea. They were everything a strawberry should be, juicy, summery, sweet. Ahhh. I can’t suggest any recipes, since we ate them out of the box around the campfire.

  18. Kinderhook

    When I was a kid we had a strawberry patch in the garden. It was our job to pick them (one for the bucket, one for the mouth). My mom made wonderful strawberry jam and it had this foamy stuff on the top when she made it. It was sort of like a souffle in texture. We would use that as jam, too. I have to say that was my favorite. It was the essence of strawberry all pink and shiny and so, so tasty.

  19. sweetpea

    Best strawberry memory, that very first wild berry. I had no idea what a difference there was. Now, I can hardly stand the big out of season berries. But I am with Megan, just a drizzle of good balsamic. I savor the taste and the season is way too short for local strawberries here in MN. Hope your planning a maternity leave!

  20. Tay

    I grew up in the forest and fields of western Michigan a a big piece of land. Some of my best childhood memories are those June days roaming with a small bucket, picking wild strawberries. My dad was a beekeeper and the honey bees were always buzzing around. Those weeks of the summer during strawberry season are very golden in memory. My brother and I didn’t fight, we were united in the quest for ripe berries.

    A taste like no other. With those tiny wild ones, the elements in the soil come through. I remember letting them melt in my mouth, warm from the sun.

    In the five years I’ve lived in the NW, I’ve never been berry picking. This summer I am resolved to go!

  21. babysteps

    mm mm, yes warm in the field is best for strawberries! As a kid we’d go to u-pick in Oregon w/cousins & my Aunt, we all had a quota. My cousin closest to me in age and I, we would scout the rows to find the best one, get our quota quickly, and then while everyone else was still working on their quota we would pick and eat. Not so slowly, either!

    Strawberries – some cooked, some fresh – over sweetened biscuits with whipped cream was supper on Sunday during strawberry season. Now I am lazy and use gluten free shortbread cookies instead.

    In my book, strawberries are up there with corn and mozarella in the ‘minutes count from picking/prep to eating’ list (all other ‘soft’ berries too).

  22. ELK

    strawberries are a very special miracle….we eat them almost all through the summer while composting their greenery to work back into our soil…last night zuchinni pancakes with raspberry jam and the red miracles…breakfast for dinner one of our favorites!

  23. Wanderlusting

    Wow – normally strawberries don’t get any reaction from me at all – I must not be buying the right ones!

    Or it could be I’m more of a blacberry/raspberry person.

  24. Lisa

    Oh, heavens, Shauna, this might be my favorite post of yours yet. It sounds like a gorgeous last few days for you and your lovely, lovely family. I can’t wait to hear about LB’s first days on the outside 🙂 but more than that, I hope these last few weeks are full of sweet, simple, nuanced experiences just like the ones your wrote about here.

    Your question about how to enjoy strawberries …. wow, it makes me think back to a sandwich I had one time, gosh, 10 or 11 years ago, in college — strawberries and brie and watercress, on a fresh baguette. Yum.

  25. Lisa Newton

    When my kids were small, pick your own farms were are best friend. Strawberries, apples, peaches, blueberries, we did them all. We always ate as we went, and when we got home, we planned what we would do with them.

    In the case of strawberries, we usually bought some ice cream on our way home and after dinner, we had our special treat.

    Thanks for bring back memories……….:)

  26. Meredith

    I’ve been visiting your blog every day for the last three, my first few in a gluten-free trial recommended by my doctor. I didn’t plan it this way, but I began the trial the day after our first strawberry pick of the season here in Maine. I realized only hours into it that I’d really not have made it through these first days without the strawberries (being so new, it feels like all I eat is polenta). When I dropped in today to find a bunch of their little red selves smiling up from your photo, it gave me another little burst of optimism.

    I know perfectly well I’m not likely to actually starve without gluten, but I’m now also clear I’ve been pretty much living on it for my first 35 years, so I keep finding myself thinking, as I guess it might make sense for a living being to, “am I actually going to have enough to eat?” Thank heavens for the strawberries, and thank heavens (and you) too for your sweet calming words about this particular journey.

  27. Metroknow -

    All I can say is…Wow….Wonderful stuff.

    Well, I guess I can say a few more things. 😉

    I just found your blog via Lisa Newton at Iowa Avenue. I wrote up a recipe for summer quinoa salad (gluten-free, of course), and in the process of finding more recipes she pointed me to you. Your blog is beautiful. I love your aesthetics in both the design and the photos. Really Brilliant. And your writing is excellent as well, of course.

    Incidentally, I grew up in part on Whidbey Island, so I’m very familiar with the areas you talk about. One of my early strawberry memories was walking along the road across from Deception Pass state park and picking wild berries, eating many, and bringing the rest back to have in a bowl of milk. Proust has nothing on me.

    I am so glad I found your blog. I’ve already subscribed. Thanks!

  28. Jenn

    My first job at age 12 was picking strawberries for the farm behind our house. I made $1.10/hr, and I was SO proud…I probably ate my weight in strawberries that summer too! And my love for them has never worn off!

    This season strawberries are an even more precious treat, as most of the farmers in the Chicago-Wisconsin area lost 40-60% of their crop in the floods, and our CSA’s strawberries were completely wiped out.

    So while prices are high, for what strawberries we do have, I am savoring every single one.

    Sliced on a spinach salad with local goat bleu cheese, macerated and splashed with gran marnier and topped with a scoop of vanilla soy cream, dribbled with a few drops of precious balsamic…all beautiful tastes of summer!

  29. Lovie

    Your writing is sublime. Until I discovered your blog, I didn’t know that words can have a taste. I always leave here so hungry. I am now going straight to my blog and putting you on my list of must reads.

  30. missjess

    I made stawberry shortcake yesterday except the shortcake became flatcake becuase I didn’t realize my baking powder had expired 6 months ago! Oops. It still was yummy.

  31. Cynna66

    Strawberries will forever remind me of weekends at my grandparents when I was little. My grandfather had a huge strawberry patch and would send me out to pick as many of the ripe, sun-warmed beauties as I could find and when he thought I’d picked enough we would make fresh strawberry ice cream. I remember watching him scoop in the rock salt into the old-fashioned ice cream maker and helping him pour and mix the cream, sugar, and eggs…washing and cutting the berries. I clearly remember those distant late spring days and how good that ice cream tasted. Anytime I see strawberries I think of my grandfather. I really need to go berry picking and make some fresh strawberry ice cream.

  32. Germaine

    I made strawberry rhubarb pie with strawberries and rhubarb that I had just picked from a farm. It was glorious. Of course you might have to sub the pie crust I made because it wasn’t gluten free.

  33. Allison

    My three year old son loves fruit of all sorts and I’m pretty sure he could live on berries.

    My favorite strawberry memory is from earlier this spring. I set the darling boy’s chair in front of the kitchen sink and gave him a bag of fresh berries and a colander so he could wash and eat as many berries as he chose to, which was nearly all of them! 😉 I loved watching his little hands carefully pull the leaves off and wash each berry before popping it in his mouth. In the end, with sticky hands and arms and a spreading strawberry stain on the front of his shirt, he was finally full.

  34. kate

    The last of this year’s strawberries were at the market this past weekend, and they were mostly overpriced and past their prime. It made me really sad to see them pass so quickly!

    But that’s okay. That just means that it’s time for beans and blackberries and blueberries and corn. On to the next phase…

  35. Rachel

    Nothing can top the wide-eyed expression of awe the first time you set a strawberries and whipped cream covered waffle down in front your child. Strawberry waffles are a staple in our house, even for dinner!

  36. Julie

    In the heat of summer, after school let out and long days were spent by my brother and I playing outside until we were exhausted, my father would have us come inside and take our showers for the evening. Dressed in my pj’s and a towel still over my wet hair, and feeling the sunburn on my skin from the days’ play, dad would slice fresh strawberries, sprinkle on a little sugar (although they probably didn’t need any) and pour some milk over top and serve my brother and I each a bowl. I can still remember sitting in the dining room while the cool night breeze blew through the opened windows and the ceiling fans circled above us, the extra-sweet taste of the strawberries and watching the milk turn a yummy pink the longer the strawberries soaked in it. I will never forget those nights. I have made it a tradition with my own four children and I am hoping they will pass this summertime treat along to their own children when the time comes. Very simple…but very delicious.

  37. muffinandbear

    I have many memories of picking strawberries with my girls – most of which involve lots of eaten strawberries by them and the red mouths, dresses and hands that they had.

    We’re just waiting for them to ripen by us…then off to make more memories!

  38. Anonymous

    Maybe strawberries are just that way. I have no shortage of amazing memories involving strawberries, the best of which involves me, as a child, sitting in the middle of my grandmother’s strawberry patch eating whatever berries I could reach right from the source. The patch was huge..maybe 6′ X 6′ although I really don’t know since everything looks big when you’re small, it just seemed bigger than my bedroom. I was there every summer from 3 years old until…I don’t know, till boys distracted me. I wish I wouldn’t have been distracted. I would give anything to go back to those moments and everytime I taste a market fresh strawberry still warm from the sun…I do go back a little. I’ll be enjoying the ones from my favorite farmers here in Brussels – and yes, they do have the market on Sundays.

  39. Nimble

    When I was nine I lived in Rhode Island and walked to a stable for riding lessons. The walk was through a couple of neighborhood streets and then through some fields. I have lots of good memories of this time in my life. I remember tall Queen Anne’s Lace flowers up to my shoulders. And the tethered ram that startled me one day with his sudden BAA. Also I found wild strawberries in the fields in spring. I think I smelled them first. They were red but so tiny and low to the ground that their perfume was more noticable than their color. What treasure.

  40. mechiko

    Hi Shauna, I am sure you don’t remember me – I took your writing classes at Sitka Fine Arts Camp for two summers. You were one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, a real influence on my life.
    Check out my blog –


  41. Green Key

    I bought my first local strawberries yesterday. They looked perfect, and smelled divine. But when I got them home and popped one into my mouth – yeow! SO SOUR!! The solution? Put a tablespoon of sugar in a bowl. Wash the berries, pick one up, dip it in the bowl – THEN pop it in your mouth. Perfection!

  42. Emily

    I’ve been reading your blog now for more than six months, and this is my first post. I’m not gluten intolerant, but I am aware, with a very dear friend being gluten-sensitive.

    I just love strawberries, and I was so excited to see this post. I’m getting married in two weeks (!) and my wedding cake is anything but white.

    I’ll be treating people to three tiers of strawberry shortcake! One of my favorite summer indulgences. I can’t wait!

  43. Julie

    One of the first finger foods my son ate by himself, on a picnic bench at Beacon Hill park in Victoria. We let him go to town with the ultra-red berries, making a juicy mess of himself, his face and the bench. All the passers-by looked at him, then at us, surprised that we weren’t stopping him from making such a mess, as if we weren’t noticing it. But he adored it, and so did we. We had never seen a pint of berries so thoroughly enjoyed. Can’t wait for you to experience the same with Little Bean.

  44. Janel

    I just ate about a pint of fresh strawberries that I got yesterday from my favorite farm where they have both strawberries and cherries.

    Sheer bliss to eat them ripe just plain the way nature intended. I was one happy pregnant woman.

    That being said, I like them on gluten-free pancakes with a tiny dollop of fresh cream.

  45. Mary

    Hunting for wild strawberries in our pasture, 8 years old, gleefully pouncing when spotted, then eating the warm ripe berries. There’s not much that can top that experience (food-wise, I mean. Falling in love is a completely different story!)

    (Note to Meredith if you look back here: of course I don’t know any of the details, but from your post it sounds like your doctor recommended a gluten free diet without testing for celiac disease. If that’s the case, and s/he decides to test later, the results may not be accurate after a period of time without gluten. I myself might not have been so motivated to stick to a gf diet without a definitive diagnosis of celiac disease. As it was, within a couple of days of my diagnosis I was committed to a gf diet for life. I don’t know how long your trial is–sometimes people with sprue feel better immediately, and for some it takes a while. So, if your health hasn’t improved by the end of the trial, you might still not know what the underlying cause is. And, if you don’t have celiac disease, a gf diet may not be necessary for you (although some people feel an improvement in their health on a gf diet in the absence of celiac disease.) In any case, my (unsolicited, but well-meaning) opinion is that it’s best to have a diagnosis before starting a gluten free diet.)

  46. Anonymous

    My best strawberry memory – I was about eight years old and our neighbor had a huge strawberry bed. She told my mom to help herself, take as many as we could use. One day, after a thunderstorm, the sun came out and my mom and I took our sugar bowl to the strawberry bed and ate fresh-washed strawberries warm from the sun till we were too full for supper. It was a good day.

  47. arlene

    My boys are away…two youngest at the lake with their grandmother…I couldn’t bear to go this first year after loosing my father…my eldest son awaiting the birth of his second child any moment…a moment I do not want to miss.
    Husband and I have three days alone at home…unheard of!
    This morning we took our morning coffee out under the giant tree in the back garden, into the shade with the birds and the breeze, and I sliced a huge bowl of strawberries, drizzled them with fig infused balsamic from our trip to Sonoma in May, then a drizzle of Mesquite honey. We let them sit in the warm dappled sunlight as we sipped our coffee and talked and enjoyed our oh-so-rare solitude (my DIL says we’re haveing a “stay-cation”.
    The taste? Heaven. Summer distilled into magic and beauty and goodness.

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