15 minutes on… incidental wonders

11:54 p.m.
Wild strawberries

Wild strawberries: one of the small, sweet pleasures of my home town. These berries shine from patches of grass and forest without any cultivation or any say-so by any human.

Black caps

Black raspberries, aka black caps (they are a deep purple when ripe. The pictured berries aren’t quite there). Yet another serendipitous find. When I was a kid, they were curly wigs on my imagined finger people, or crowns or coins or cakes.  Unfortunately, they love to grow near poison ivy. Almost every summer, those insidious oils found me and laid me out with oatmeal compresses on the backs of my legs or calamine lotion covering one swollen eye. Even the plumpest of these berries won’t fit on my finger anymore, but I still savor them whenever I’m willing to hunt — and court itchy disaster.

Mulberry close-up

Mulberries. I still feel a smile every time I walk by a mulberry tree. Whether it’s in someone’s back yard, or along the exhaust-laden sidewalks of 16th Street, I’ll halt my purposeful D.C. walk to pick them. The older trees give you the sweetest berries, my dad used to tell me. I know people who have special shirts just for picking mulberries because of the stains, my mother said.

Perennial wild berries: You could walk by and not even notice them. Or you could notice them.

12:09 a.m.

Strawberries no bigger than a knuckle

Russ Parsons, author of  How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table, was on American Public Media’s “The Splendid Table” this week talking about strawberries.

A few fun facts he shared:

  • Go tiny when you choose strawberries. No bigger than a knuckle is best if you want maximum sweetness and flavor.
  • The best strawberries are not fit for shipping. They’re too fragile! This means you’d better buy local, or you’re getting something bred to last–not to taste good.
  • You can “cook” fresh berries into sauce simply by adding sugar. They’re so delicate that all it takes is the compounds in table sugar to break them down. (The same way the fresh fish in ceviche cooks in lime juice).
  • Strawberries taste really good in this recipe (I have yet to try it, but it looks delightful and gets points for creativity!)

Listen to the whole interview at SplendidTable.org. Scroll down to the links to this week’s show.

For my own contibution, I will point you toward Bon Appetit magazine’s Strawberry Tiramisu. A great no-bake recipe for your sweltering summer kitchen.