The strawberry story

By Mir
May 18, 2009

So, here’s the thing about strawberries at this time of year: They’re EVERYWHERE, here in Georgia. You can get them cheap at the grocery store, the farms are all advertising that they’re peaking, heck, we’re even growing them in containers on our deck.

Supermarket strawberries: Pretty cheap, right now, and decent-tasting. Not great, but not bad.

Deck strawberries: Completely free (we bought the plants last year), but taste like crap. Seriously. The brightest red, most gorgeous-looking berries? Taste like nothing. I will never buy these plants again. Yuck.

Farm strawberries: More expensive than the other two options (though not by much), but positively luscious, delicious, amazing, etc. If you’re willing to take the time to drive out there and pick, clearly the winner of the available options.

Plus, picking strawberries is FUN. Right? OF COURSE IT IS.


So we’d been planning to pick strawberries on Saturday morning. It would be a family activity, and particularly fun for my dad and stepmom because where they live, there’s still snow on the ground. (That may be an exaggeration, but it’s also possible that it’s not.) Anticipation was running high.

There was a small kerfluffle the day before because Monkey had a birthday party to get to on Saturday afternoon, and his loving sister MAY have tried to convince him that we planned to go pick while he was at the party, too bad so sad. Once that was straightened out and all was clarified, harmony resumed.

Until Saturday morning. Because, you see, Saturday morning dawned and brought with it… thunderstorms. The torrential downpour convinced us that surely we needed to change our plans for the day. That was disappointing, to be sure, but it’s not like the strawberries were going to disappear if we didn’t go that very day.

Of course, by the time we were getting Monkey ready to go to his party, the sun had been out for a couple of hours. It was drying out and looking like a pretty nice day, even. And I got to thinking that JUST MAYBE he wouldn’t mind if we DID go pick without him, given the choice between a party or the strawberry farm. He was a little disappointed but gave his blessing.

Otto took Monkey to the party, and the rest of us piled into the car and headed to the strawberry farm with every spare food storage container in the house. We were going to pick GALLONS of berries. We’d have berries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! We’d fill the freezer with ’em! It was going to be awesome.

We live about half an hour away from the farm. As we drove along, we saw some dark clouds in the distance. “Uh oh,” joked my dad, “I think maybe the storm left and is now waiting for us over at the strawberry farm!” And we all laughed, because THAT WOULD BE SILLY.

But by the time we got there, things were looking grim. It was very overcast and it was starting to sprinkle. Still, it was something like 82 degrees outside, so what’s a little rain? It’s not as though we would be too cold, or anything, right? We walked up and asked if we could still go pick. The girls who work the little stand out front looked at us like we’d just asked if it was okay to run up and down the rows naked.

“Well,” said one, finally, “It’s kind of, y’know, raining?”

“Yes, we noticed,” I said. “But it’s only drizzling. We don’t mind getting wet. Is it okay?”

“I dunno,” she said. “I guess?” (Ah, to be a teen, and to have every statement be a question again….)

We gathered our buckets and headed out into the field. We went straight to the far end, because that’s where no one had been, yet, and we figured we’d find plenty of bounty there. Chickadee was excited. My dad was cracking jokes. My stepmom said something about how we’d probably have to pick fast. I wiped a few raindrops off my glasses and hoped the rain would hold off.

We hunkered down to start pulling berries just as the rain got a little bit harder. “Well,” I thought to myself, “this is rather unpleasant.”

“I’m getting wet!” wailed Chickadee from further down the row.

“You won’t melt!” I called back, hoping I sounded more jovial than I felt.

And then the sky OPENED UP. You know the rain where it’s a single, relentless, pelting SHEET? And the air temperature drops about ten degrees in ten seconds? It was THAT rain. My father wisely ran to the forest lining the road and stood under what bit of cover the trees offered. Chickadee soon ran to join him. And finally I gave in and went, too.

My stepmom continued picking berries, a look of grim determination on her face. Eventually we were able to call her to come stand with us, and we all admired the half-bucket she’d managed to pick. And I pretty much felt like an asshole for dragging them on this trip that had now resulted in our standing in a forest half an hour from home, dripping and cold, in the middle of a thunderstorm.

After a few minutes it became clear that the storm wasn’t clearing any time soon, and we walked through the forest back to the stand up front, and asked if they had any pre-picked gallons for sale. They did. We bought two of them and came home. Everyone changed into dry clothes and ate some (delicious! very delicious!) berries.

And then, of course, because I can’t just leave well enough alone, I decide to make a pie.

The thing about me and baking is that I am an EXCELLENT baker of bread, because the more perfectionistic and futzing you are with bread dough, the better it turns out (generally speaking). But all of the qualities that make me an excellent bread baker make me the world’s worst pie crust maker, because the more you handle pie crust, the more it resembles shoe leather. I know this about myself, and still I made crusts, and still I overhandle them, and still I try to make pie, even though it should be against the law owing to my complete pastry impairment.

Oddly enough, the crust was just fine, if you don’t count all of the colorful words I said while making it. But the berries were so juicy, after an hour I had baked… a pie crust full of strawberry soup. That night after dinner I had to serve it to my family with a SPOON to fish it out of the pie plate.

Everyone assured me it was still delicious (I wouldn’t know, because I am still on this stupid elimination diet), but I know the truth. I made my parents come over a thousand miles to see us, and then I forced them to work in the fields during a torrential downpour, and then I served them sludge.

Thank goodness I have cute kids. Otherwise I doubt they’d ever come visit.


  1. Jen

    Hm, I think I might just go 1000 miles for strawberry sludge made by Mir. Yes, I think I might!

  2. Katie in MA

    I kept waiting to hear that it hailed! Or that the strawberries were buries in mud! Or that lightning hit the forest you had taken cover in! I’ll take Strawberry Sludge any day. Mmmmmm. Except WAIT! You can’t have any! Uh, bad pie! Blech!

  3. Leila and dad

    Somebody once sang: “I’d walk a million miles for one of your smiles….”
    We only came a thousand miles. We took an airplane. Strawberry picking at its best is an exercise in humility. I still hurt from laughing so hard. The “sludge” was fantastic and yes, the kids are cute. We got off easy.

    We’re definitely coming back and I’m sticking with this story.

  4. BethR

    So what’s wrong with strawberry sludge? Goes better with ice cream that way and you don’t have the whole “do I use a fork? or a spoon?” question that can get in the way of pie and ice cream heaven :-)

    The best dessert I think I’ve ever had was supposed to be jelly… and turned into ice cream topping!

  5. Anna Marie

    Mir, I L.O.V.E. your dad. He’s awesome.

  6. Niki

    Yet here in NC, where we are finally out of drought status for the first time in a bazillion years after all of the rain we have had for the last few months, we are hearing that due to all of the rain, the strawberry crops are in jeopardy. We just can’t win.

    Of course, I’m allergic, but hubby would love nothing more than for me to bring home a tub of freshly picked strawberries. They would need to be picked by a non-allergic someone, though, and that would require him getting off the couch. I guess he’ll just have to live without them.

  7. Cindy

    One day you will be telling your grandchildren that story! Can’t beat getting good story material, even if it looks better from the rearview mirror.

    And pie crusts? Don’t love me either and I am also a bread baker so I think your theory holds true. My solution has been to use the No Roll Pie crust from all recipes. (1.5 cups flour, 2T sugar, 1t salt, mix then and add 1/2 c oil and 2T milk and mix with a fork until it comes together then pat out in a pan) It LOVES to be patted and shaped and generally overworked to death. I find that freezing it before using has the best result.

  8. Chuck

    Sometimes the best tasting pies are the messy ones.

    I once went mountain biking right in the middle of a thunderstorm. I saw a tree get hit by lightning about 30 feet away during the ride down. And I knew there was a chance of storms but I still decided to risk the trek down. Oh well. I learned my lesson.

  9. just beaux

    Too funny. I just love me some strawberries. Sigh…

  10. BethRD

    Around here all of the supermarket berries come from CALIFORNIA despite the fact it’s strawberry season right here in NC. I’m not a committed local eater, but I’m not going to buy CA berries during NC berry season.

  11. Casey

    It funny you should say that about freezing the strawberries that you had intended on picking – I did that every year – get a flat of strawberries from a truck on the side of the road – clean em and freeze em – and that would keep us for a year. Then Katrina hit….and we were without power for a week. My husband had to clean out the freezer and said that the strawberries had got everywhere (packed freezer, strawberries in Ziploc bags – you get the picture) – he was like “man it looked like someone took a head shot in our freezer!” – so no more years worth of frozen strawberries for me I’m afraid

  12. meghann

    You know, they’ve invented this thing, called radar. has it. You can like, SEE the weather. It’s amazing.

    *ducks, runs away, hides*

  13. liz

    Didn’t you make the crust with vodka? Why didn’t you just add more vodka to the strawberry sludge and call it a fruity drink?
    Mmm….fruity drinks.

  14. Lacey

    Not as bad as being stuck out in the rain…but I convinced my husband to head to the big home improvement store on Saturday afternoon and insisted we didn’t need to shut the windows, it hadn’t rained all day and we would only be 20-30 minutes. Of course as we are heading into a second giant discount store it pours harder than ever. As in raining sideways. I spent part of the evening on my knees soaking water from the wet carpet!
    From my childhood, I went on a vacation with my grandparents and they saw a sign that a farm was hiring people to pick blueberries. My grandparents asked if we wanted to do that as a joke and I answered very seriously, “no, my mom gave me money.”

  15. Tracy

    I’m so sorry your adventure turned into a wet one. I hate it when that happens but sometimes, especially after driving for 30 minutes, you’ve gotta give it a try. Last month, while picking Mayhaw’s I would have welcomed a rainshower or two. It was sooooo HOT!

  16. Nelson's Mama

    Law, honey…them berries were meant to be cut up, then had a whole ton a sugar dumped on them and and then left to sit on the counter a spell so they’d make a beautiful syrup so’s you could eat ’em on top of some shortcakes or poundcake with homemade whipped cream or ice cream!

    Don’t be cookin’ them berries no more…

  17. Jean

    Nelson’s Mama is right! Strawberries are way too tasty to put in a pie. Maybe that’s what you can use the ones on the deck for? Good strawberries are for eating with sugar alone or for having with shortcake, in the manner that Nelson’s Mama mentioned. Pies are for rhubarb, silly.

    And just so you know that you’re not alone, our family had almost the exact same experience several times last year while picking strawberries and raspberries. The closer we got to the field, the closer that raincloud got to the field. It got to the point where the kids would just beg me to turn around before we even got there because they were certain we would be getting wet. Fun times.

  18. Katherine

    I’m hoping to get some strawberry plants for next year – how do you know what kind are good to get?

    We’re going strawberry picking this afternoon – I don’t think it will rain, but I will probably be wearing a sweatshirt.

  19. Ani

    Strawberry eating is fun.

    Strawberry picking is decidedly NOT FUN

    Strawberry pie? Yum!

  20. exile on mom street

    We finally went back to the farm for more berries today. We got my bucket almost full. We got G’s bucket about half full.

    And then he decided that he was done and had a very two-and-a-half-year-old temper tantrum to that effect. In a strawberry patch (stains on the knees & flailing arms, don’t you know).

    Then he sat in the car playing with a toy train while I picked the rest of the berries and panicked that someone was going to call the cops on the horrible mother who left her kid in the car at the Strawberry Farm. The end.

  21. Kristen

    I do admire your commitment to your diet.

  22. nil zed

    some of the overhandling issues can be overcome by walking away.

    everytime you fiddle with it, you get the gluten all worked up, so give it few minutes to rest & relax before going on to the next step. it is hard to do this. I know. because you want to get the job done, so you can get the thing in the oven. But try.

    also, no cooking stawberries, except for jam.

  23. Kelly

    Ahh, the pleasures of Pie Soup. My story: A coworker brought back dessert from lunch for me. I could not leave the office that day. I had asked for Banana Pudding or if no ‘Nanna Puddin was left, get a piece of the Chocolate French Silk Pie. When he left it on my desk, I just assumed that he had gotten the ‘Nanna Puddin, and I eventually got up to heat it up in the microwave. I hate cold ‘Nanna Puddin. Just 30 seconds, and when I got back to my desk and opened the styrofoam container, I had a French Silk Soup, the likes of which I had never seen before. I used my trusty plastic spoon, and tried it. It was great, wonderful, it really tasted like a smooth chocolate soup, with a little graham cracker crust that you could dig for. After that sometimes, I would plan to get the French Silk pie, just so I could nuke it, and have French Silk Soup.

  24. Debra

    One word about the pie crust… Pillsbury. It’s the secret of old southern grandma’s everywhere. :)

  25. Jan

    Mir, Mir, Mir. Next time … it’s strawberry-RHUBARB pie. Because, as you may or may not have noticed, strawberries sort of melt when you cook them.

  26. Mom101

    How can you handle making PIE when you can’t even eat it? You’re a good mom. Me, I’d be like we’re all on water and pebbles together (or whatever it is you’re eating these days) and you’re going to like it.

  27. Jenni

    Last summer we went to a farm to pick blueberries and blackberries and we got soaked. Yet we still got enough berries to last us a good long while. :)

  28. Julie Stiles Mills

    I’ve lived in this small town since 1996 and have YET to take my kids 10 flippin minutes up the road to “Pappy’s Patch” to pick strawberries. I’m convicted. I’m checking the hours. School’s over this week.

    But I’m NOT baking a pie. In this house, strawberries disappear the fastest when cut up and served on a plate with bananas and a side container of chocolate syrup.

  29. Flea

    Geez, Mir. What kind of daughter are you? ;)

  30. StephLove

    I am so jealous. Okay, not of that specific strawberry picking experience, but strawberries! Ripe, local strawberries! Only a couple weeks to wait here in Maryland. I am so making shortcake the instant they show up at the farmers’ market.

  31. Kathy

    I had a friend whose mom made us pick strawberries every summer while we were growing up. We complained the entire time, got caught in a thunderstorm and had some other pretty fun adventures. Whenever we would complain my friends mom would always say “We’re making memories.” And, she was right. When the four of us get together, the first thing we talk about is strawberry picking – even now 30 years later. Those times are some of my favorite memories and this will be something Chickadee remembers her whole life. What a great memory!

  32. EmmaC

    Did you try the vodka crust yet? Either way, I second Liz that you should just tip a little vodka into the strawberry slush and call it fancy.

  33. Sharon

    Foolproof double pie crust, I promise (I’ve been using this recipe forever): Sift two cups of flour into a bowl; with a fork cut in 1/2 cup Crisco; mix in 7 Tbsp of cold water. Mix just until dough forms a ball. Divide in half and roll each out on a floured board or counter. Voila! Line a pie plate with one, fill, and top with the second crust. My husband kids that he married me for my pie-making ability, but it’s really no big deal:)

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