I love June. It's the time when New Englanders can really start to believe that winter might actually be over and that we might be able to eat something fresh and delicious that doesn't come from far away.
Every June, I gorge on local strawberries, because they appear so briefly and are so much better than anything that comes from a plastic supermarket box that it's ridiculous. I can never quite believe that there's something I can eat that looks this gorgeous.
Recently, after an ambitious few days of strawberry picking at The Food Project, in a vacationing friend's garden and at another local farm, I found myself face to face with 12 pounds of strawberries (that's about 400 berries, give or take a few). I ate as many as I could stand. I turned some into this*:
And some, with the addition of rhubarb, into this:
And some more into this:
I know. It's green, not red. It's a smoothie made with fresh strawberries, a banana, and spinach. And it was wonderful. Before you decide I've taken leave of my senses, understand that this smoothie looks not only ordinary, but really quite good, to anyone who eats a raw food diet. While I haven't decided to head straight down that culinary path, I can say that raw foodists have opened up a new world of eating experiences for me, and I'm thrilled about it. I like lots of vegetables, but there are plenty of days when I just can't face a big bowl of leafy greens, no matter how good they are for me. Things like swiss chard and kale, which are among the best greens (the darker the color, the better the nutrients, apparently), have always been a struggle for me. When I started learning about raw foods and found out that there are thousands of people out there who get their greens when they add them by the handful to a blender full of sweet, ripe fruit, I was skeptical, but I have to say it works quite well. Now I'm happy to drink something that looks like a big glass full of blended lawn mower clippings several times a week.
Baby spinach is probably the easiest addition to a fruit smoothie, because its mild, sweet taste doesn't fight back too much against the flavor of the fruit. Once you've got that down, you can try adding kale to a blueberry-orange smoothie, or parsley to blended pears, dates and ginger, or basil to tomato, shallots and garlic...there really are no rules. I've even managed to get my kids to drink a smoothie made with pineapple, banana, coconut and spinach. Sometimes these concoctions are a beautiful shade of bright green, and others, with blueberries or lots of strawberries, are, well, gray. Purplish gray, maybe grurple. Not pretty, but really good. And good for you!
So, today, even though it feels like I should be building an ark instead of venturing outside, I'll probably take my kids to pick more strawberries. Because I have something special arriving in the mail today, and I sense some pies on the horizon. More about that to come...
* If you're ready to make your own jam but are horrified by the amount of sugar most traditional recipes require, check out this article in a recent issue of Eating Well magazine. It has some great information for beginners and a recipe for jam that works nicely with a reasonable 1-2 cups of sugar per batch.