Yet again, our lovely state has teased us with hints of spring. And as quickly as it arrived, it’s gone. We’re left with 90-degree weather and the prospect of a long, humid summer. Many of my friends lament this. I do not share their feelings. As a child of the South, I have come to love the heat. It means my favorite time of year is upon us. Strawberry season.
Strawberries love the heat. The hotter it is before they ripen, the sweeter the fruit. Strawberry season brings up the best memories of my youth. Every year I would wait anxiously for the end of April. On the last Friday of the month, my mother would pick me up from school, the back of the car filled with bowls and cardboard boxes. It was time to pick strawberries. We would drive south, to the rural part of town. The further we went, the fewer houses we saw, replaced by fields of freshly planted corn, only knee high. At long last, we would arrive at Bay Breeze Farm, tucked away from the main road. We’d hop out of the car, our arms filled with bowls and boxes. Mrs. Barnes would greet me. “Every year,” she would say, “you keep gettin’ bigger.” The counter on her stand towered over me, my eyes barely peaking over the top. It was filled with cartons of bright red strawberries, still warm from the sun. But we weren’t here to just buy; we were here to pick.
I’d run out into the field, along the seemingly never-ending rows of the juicy fruit. For the next hour, I would stoop down, picking only the brightest, juiciest berries. Every five minutes or so, my mom would call me over. “Here,” she would say, “this one’s too pretty to take home.” She’d dust off a giant, beautiful berry and hand it to me. I’d wolf it down, the red juice running down my chin and staining my shirt. When the bowls and boxes were full, we’d return to the stand and weigh our harvest. Mrs. Barnes would comment on how well we’d done. The wind would blow through my hair as we drove back home; the windows open wide. I would munch away at our hull, the stems scattered along the road in our wake. When we arrived, the berries would be washed and stemmed. Jars upon jars of jam awaited in our future. My mom would get to work preparing dessert for the night, the dish I still look forward to more than any other: strawberry shortcake. So would end a perfect day, in bowl of sweet berries and cream.
I still go back to Bay Breeze. The counters get shorter every year, but nothing else has changed. Mrs. Barnes still tells me how big I’ve gotten. And the strawberries are as sweet as ever. Still best fresh from the field, warm from the sun.
3 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, and halved
6 tbsp. sugar
1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
6 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
3⁄4 cup milk
1. Place strawberries in a medium bowl, sprinkle with 5 tbsp. of the sugar, and set aside to macerate for 30 minutes at room temperature.
2. Preheat oven to 400°. Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 1 tbsp. sugar together into a bowl. Cut 4 tbsp. of the butter into flour mixture with a pastry cutter, or use your fingers to work it in, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in milk. On a floured surface, shape dough into a biscuit, 2″ thick and 6″ in diameter. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet until just golden, about 15 minutes.
3. Cool slightly, then slice in half horizontally. Spread remaining 2 tbsp. butter on cut sides. Place bottom half of biscuit on a plate, and spoon half the strawberries and juice on top. Cover with the other half of biscuit and spoon remaining strawberries and whipped cream onto top and serve.