• Simple Garden Recipes With Cherries And Berries

    Strawberries with sour cream and brown sugar.

    Baked goat cheese and lettuce salad with cherries.

    When eating seasonally, the garden often dictates our menu. Right now we have cherries, strawberries and lettuces in full swing, and while we will preserve some of the fruit, we try to eat it at its peak. We also try not to do much with the main ingredient, if we grew lettuces or berries, that what we want to enjoy. So with that in mind, here are the first of a series of quick, simple recipes that highlight fresh produce straight from the garden or farmers market. This is also what we tend to have for lunch these days.

    Our first recipe is a simple combination of strawberries, sour cream and brown sugar. That’s all. You just clean the strawberries and put out some sour cream and light brown sugar. Just dip the strawberry in a bit of sour cream and then the brown sugar. The flavor is sweet, sour and tangy- with just a touch of molasses from the brown sugar. Instant dessert. And pretty, too.

    Simple, but very tasty.

    It is worth noting that this is our second crop of strawberries this season. And we do see a pattern emerging. The first crop is tasty, but often somewhat aesthetically challenged, with misshapen fruit. The second crop comes in with more consistent shape and color- so these kind of easy preparations look very appealing at the table. We put these strawberries out and they get eaten, quickly.

    Some strawberries from our second crop, these look better than the first crop.

    Our other simple recipe is a baked goat cheese, lettuce and cherry salad. Baked goat cheese salads have been around for a while, but they are still a great lunch or starter salad and a lovely meat-free dish. And the same basic recipe applies to most stone fruit or berries. If you have strawberries or blackberries or even peaches, you can use this recipe. One key is to taste your goat cheese and then select the fruit that best matches the flavor. Goat cheese ranges widely from creamy to chalky and sweet to very tart. Tart cheese tastes good with sweet stone fruits, while sweeter cheese tastes best with tart strawberries or blackberries (to us, at least). But these are fun experiments, try what you like. In this case we used a creamy, but tart, local goat cheese from Harley Farms to match our very sweet cherries, and it was delicious.

    Ingredients for baked goat cheese, lettuce and cherry salad.

    Baking the goat cheese and breadcrumbs.

    As for making the salad, it is easy, but has a few steps. Firstly cut the cheese into disks and sprinkle with fresh herbs and olive oil. Then make (or buy) some breadcrumbs and lightly coat the cheese with the breadcrumbs. Then bake in a 400 degree oven for 5-6 minutes. Meanwhile wash and dry your greens (remember the dryer the greens, the better the salad), make a quick vinaigrette and prepare your fruit. When ready to serve, dress the salad and then arrange greens, a disk or two of the cheese and some fruit on a salad plate. Simple, tasty and beautiful. There’s a reason you see this dish at restaurants, it works.

    Make a quick, flavorful vinaigrette.

    Arrange on the plate, season and serve.

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  • Garden Update: Planting and Harvesting

    Nasturtium in the garden

    Exciting times for us here at the “farm”. We finished our planting and are harvesting some of our early season fruits and veggies. So far, we harvested our spring potatoes and now the blueberries, strawberries and artichokes are in full swing. The herbs are going crazy with the heat. The mint, as always, is trying to take over the garden (so are the potatoes, for that matter).

    Let’s start with the harvest. Our blueberries struggled with the variable weather a few weeks ago, the alternating rain and heat swelled the berries, but they had little flavor. With the last few weeks of consistent sun, they are taking off and the flavor is concentrated and far sweeter. We have 4 large bushes (and a few stragglers) and they each provide blueberries with slightly different flavors. Fun to taste for the differences if you like to geek up on these things (and we do). Happily for the next month or two we will get at least 1/2 pint of blueberries a day, some days a lot more. The bushes are surprisingly productive and we often have to work to keep up. These are good problems to have.

    Blueberries- if they pull-off easily, they are ready.

    The strawberries are also taking off. We cleaned and de-slugged the beds a few weeks ago to coincide with the warm, sunny weather. Since then the beds are doing great. The first crop is usually a bit funky in flavor and shape, but most of the plants are looking good. We won’t be able to keep up with the strawberries as we move into summer, the bed has over 30 active plants and when they get going, they get going. Needless to say, you will be seeing strawberry cocktail and dessert recipes a lot in the coming months.

    Strawberry in raised container. This keeps the berry off the ground and limits rot.

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