Foodie Delights

Sorry, Colorado…You Got Nothing On Maine

This post may offend my Colorado readers, and for that I sincerely apologize. The guilt of holding the truth in has been eating at my soul. Not really, but I don’t like to talk behind backs, and I have been talking behind the back of my former state for years.

The produce in Colorado doesn’t taste as good as the produce in Maine.

There. I’ve said it.

During my time in Colorado, I spent over a decade visiting farmers market after farmers market only to find that the tomatoes grown in the Rocky Mountain soil don’t have the rich, tomatoey flavor of those grown in my home state. The cucumbers aren’t quite as juicy. Even the flowers (save the high-desert sage) do not emit as much fragrance. Perhaps it is my own bias. Perhaps it is because my present home in Maine has so much more water. Regardless, the only true “produce” that I heartily miss from Colorado is the roasted green peppers (I know — the best of those come from New Mexico, but at least Colorado has some! Do you know how hard it is to make a good green chili in the state of Maine for the love of all that is good and holy?!?!?)

This brings me to the produce that tastes better in Maine (in my not-so-humble opinion): STRAWBERRIES.

Mid-June in Maine brings U-Pick hours at strawberry farms all over the state. This year, I loaded Kitt up in the car at 6:30 A.M. and drove to a favorite farm: Stevenson’s Strawberries in Wayne, Maine. Kitt had never been to the fields before, and I have to say for 3 1/2 she showed amazing discipline. She didn’t eat a berry until she filled the small bucket that she carried into the field. Of course, after the bucket was topped off with “Kitt-sized berries” she sat in the middle of a row and became eerily silent as she shoved berry after berry into her face. I offered to weigh her on our way out, but was told there was no need.

Strawberry Farms are like crack dealers. They really are. Get ’em hooked young and they will be coming back for years!

After an hour of picking I ended up with 23 lbs of luscious berries.

For those wondering -- this is what 23 lbs of berries looks like. OK -- perhaps minus a pound from my munching on the way home.
For those wondering — this is what 23 lbs of berries looks like. OK — perhaps minus a pound from my own munching on the way home.

Many of you may be wondering, “What in the hell do you do with 23 lbs of freaking strawberries?!?” The answer is a lot.

I saved 3 quarts for fresh eating. Do I need to tell you why?

I froze 7 quart bags to be used in a blender later. HELLO strawberry margaritas and daiquiris. Oh, and smoothies for Kitt, of course. Frozen berries also make one helluva good strawberry shortcake mid-winter when the days are about an hour long. Thaw out frozen berries and welcome in summer sunshine.

I used 8 cups in a Fresh Strawberry pie, which I would show a picture of, but we consumed a great deal after dinner last night, and the pie is a bit of a mess.

Then comes the jam.

It’s true. I make jam. So unlike me, but I eat A LOT of jam, so I have found that the best way to keep myself in it without spending my entire paycheck is to make my own.

I prepared myself the night before with supplies:

I know, I know, how "farm-like" of me. Perhaps this place is getting to me.
I know, I know, how “farm-like” of me. Perhaps this place is getting to me.

I decided on two types of jam: strawberry and strawberry-rhubarb. I harvested the rhubarb for the latter from a small patch beside our former garden. Check out my “Gardening Attempts” page to see how that is going.

12 cups of strawberries, 2 cups of rhubarb, 12 1/2 cups of sugar, two pots, infinite episodes of “Bubble Guppies” for Kitt, and 10 minutes in a boiling water canner later, this is what I had:

The two jars on the end are actually for the fridge. The jar on the right wouldn’t fit in the canner, so I decided just to eat it. I filled the bowl on the left with scrapings from the bottoms of the pot. Can’t let good jam go to waste!

Can’t wait for blueberry season. Sorry Colorado, Wild Maine Blueberries are even better than the strawberries. Don’t believe me? Come on out in late July, stay for a while, and see for yourself.