What is this? Just a strawberry, right? Oh, no–no, my friend. This is one of the first strawberries of the season in Georgia.
Unlike many CSAs, my CSA provides subscribers (for an additional fee) the option of picking and choosing what we’ll receive from the local produce/products they currently have available. Two weeks ago, when I visited the CSA website to pick what I wanted, I clicked on the link for available fruits and nearly jumped out of my chair. The first Georgia strawberries had come in, and they were certified organic, too! Noting the high price, I ordered just a pint instead of the vast quantity I considered. When I arrived home, I bounced up and down gleefully as I told my husband that we were going to have strawberries coming in. “Okay,” he responded pleasantly but calmly, seeming a bit confused. I am certainly the more excitable of the two of us, but I’m also the meal planner. I realized I had a bit more explaining to do.
“Do you realize we haven’t had strawberries to eat since last summer?”
“Oh–have we really not?”
“No, they haven’t been in season since then. The only strawberries we’ve had since last summer have been in jam!”
And truthfully, we didn’t have many strawberries last year at all—a late-season Easter frost killed most of Georgia’s strawberry crop, among others. (This year, in the next two months, I plan to go out to a you-pick place so I can preserve strawberries to eat when the season ends.)
Now, I know that at any time in the last year, I could have gone to Wal-Mart, or Kroger, or Whole Foods, and I could have bought some strawberries from California or Chile or Peru. But strawberries taste best fresh, and buying strawberries from a far-flung location—even if the strawberries are organic, as nearly everything I buy is—would mean contributing a whole lot of calories of oil energy, its inherent pollution, and its contribution to climate change, for the sake of me eating something that was subpar, something I could eat in much finer form if I just waited a few months. I don’t eat everything in season, but I try as much as I can. And good strawberries are worth waiting for.
Do you ever get the feeling that there’s little on the planet that’s exciting anymore–that, having nearly everything available to us, right at our fingertips, it’s hard to feel all that thrilled by life? Do you ever feel like the choices we have are sometimes just overwhelming? Maybe even depressing? Choosing to eat seasonally is one way to take back a sense of appreciation, a way to utilize limitations to provide a sense of excitement and nourishment rather than deprivation. Rare things are precious, and learning to eat seasonally makes foods rotate from abundance to rarity (or non-existence) on a regular basis–it makes various foods precious, and exciting, as the year revolves. Choosing to eat seasonally is a way to learn to eat a variety of fresh, whole foods and naturally rotate foods over the course of a year. It’s a way to eat foods in their freshest state, which means when they are highest in their nutrients. It’s also a way to contribute your money directly to the local economy, and, as I mentioned, to decrease the impact your life’s consumption is having on the planet and its current and future in habitants. For me, eating seasonally—eating locally produced foods—provides a homey structure for what I choose to prepare for our meals. It is inspiring, and it is comforting.
After I placed my CSA order, I had 6 days to daydream about what to do with those sweet first-of-season strawberries. When they arrived, I savored a few straight-up as soon as I got the package home. Chewy, sweet, with the zing of the tiny seeds–delicious. I continued to ponder the strawberries for the next couple of days. Then I realized my second loaf of the fantastic gluten-free, vegan bread (see recipe in previous post) was going a bit stale. The inspiration appeared: I used the rest of the strawberries for a chocolate-strawberry bread pudding, where the strawberries baked up as a jammy contrast to the rich, smooth chocolate and chewy bread. And, of course, I had to share it with friends, and I had to freeze some to serve my husband when he arrived home from his trip. Precious things are often more fun when they’re enjoyed in community.
Chocolate-Strawberry Bread Pudding with (Optional) Rum Sauce
(Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Dairy-Free, Vegan)
5 T. unsweetened cocoa
1-2 T. hot water
2 c. milk alternative (I used vanilla almond milk)
Egg replacer equivalent of 2 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
dash of salt
2 t. vanilla extract
1 T. Kahlua (optional)
3-4 c. stale bread, cut or torn into small pieces
3/4 c. strawberries
1/2 c. chocolate chips or chunks
In a small bowl or ramekin, use a fork to whisk the cocoa with the hot water. (Start with 1 T and work up from there, if necessary.) In a large bowl, combine the cocoa mixture, milk alternative, egg replacer, sugar, salt, vanilla, and Kahlua. Add the bread, strawberries, and chocolate chunks, and mix well. Bake in 6-8 ramekins for ~25 minutes or in a casserole dish for ~1 hour–until the top mostly firms up.
Optional Rum Sauce
(I couldn’t decide whether I liked it better with or without)
1/2 c. margarine, ghee, or shortening
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. dark rum
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
In a mixing bowl, beat the margarine/ghee until fluffy. Add the powdered sugar, rum, vanilla, and nutmeg. Beat on high speed for two minutes. Spoon over the pudding. (Sauce will soften when spooned.)