Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Memory of Strawberries

My mother is a gardener - it's something she has always been good at. (Whereas I, on the other hand, have been known to kill plastic plants and cacti, even.)

When I was growing up, my mother grew strawberries in two long lines, running along a walkway on the side of our house. They were tiny, little perfect heart-shaped strawberries - or perhaps it was just that we never allowed them to grow very big. They certainly never made it into the kitchen. While we had peaches and raspberries and rhubarb in abundance in our freezer, the strawberries were pretty much were eaten by whoever happened to spot a ripe one on the vine, right there on the walkway. I don't even remember rinsing them. Maybe we rinsed them in the hose, but, probably not. But, as I recall, the taste of those strawberries was a little taste of heaven - sugar sweet without the sugar, and warm from the sun. (We did the same thing with my mother's snap peas - eating them straight from her garden. I wonder if she knew that we ate them, or if she just thought she had a lousy crop of snap peas every year?)

Yesterday, Husband brought home a package of strawberries from Kroger. Lana and Gabe were excited when I opened the package up to make a bedtime snack - they both love strawberries. I rinsed the strawberries in the sink and started to slice them into bowls, and the smell of those strawberries wafted up to my nose, and it occurred to me, that THESE strawberries barely even smelled like strawberries. For lack of a better explanation, they smelled like the memory of strawberries. A faint whiff of what strawberries are SUPPOSED to smell like. This made me sad.

I sliced the California berries up and put them in bowls for my children. I sprinkled them with sugar, and they ate them with gusto. I put the rest in bowls for Husband and myself, and I drizzled them with sugar and with a few drops of obscenely expensive balsamic vinegar from Zingerman's*, and I won't say that they tasted bad. (In fact, with the balsamic and the sugar they tasted pretty divine.) But, they didn't taste like the strawberries from my mother's yard. It made me wish, momentarily, that I had a green thumb like my mother's.


PS - there is a photo post up at my other site

*I stood in the vinegar section Zingerman's in Ann Arbor, looking at the $150 bottles of balsamic, and the $30 bottle of balsamic seemed like a veritable BARGAIN by comparison - and then I got home and it occurred to me that I had spent more on the bottle of balsamic than I had on the SHOES I was wearing, and it seemed a little insane. It made sense at the time, I swear. I was made temporarily insane by the crazy delicious smells in there. And the vinegar really is amazing. It is. I SWEAR.


Blogger niobe said...

I just planted 8 little strawberry plants about three weeks ago. The vivid descriptions in your post makes me really hope that they survive and bear fruit.

If you have any interest in trying to grow fruit, one plant that's pretty foolproof is raspberries. You won't get any berries the first year, but after that, the canes pretty much grow like weeds and don't really require any care.

Thursday, June 14, 2007 2:15:00 PM  
Blogger maxhelcal said...

I know what you mean about the strawberries. We used to go strawberry picking at a nearby farm when we were growing up. I hadn't thought about that for years....

I loved seeing the pictures! Lana looks great and everyone is having so much fun!


Thursday, June 14, 2007 2:21:00 PM  
Blogger jenn said...

I just posted about fresh strawberries! You should be able to find a pick your own place not too far out of your city I would think, though this is the last week of them I am figuring. Make it a point to do it next year, every kid should have the chance to eat berries that fresh!

I've been itching to get a bottle of good balsamic, just can't bring myself to do it...your post may have just put me over the edge.

Thursday, June 14, 2007 3:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Christina said...

I love homegrown strawberries. We're just starting to get a few ripe ones. It will be a miracle if I can get enough to keep the family happy, what with the slugs and other annoying pests...

Thursday, June 14, 2007 3:48:00 PM  

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