My mother is a brilliant woman. When my siblings and I were young, she managed to keep us outside playing the entire day. We scattered into the backyard, or into town on our bikes, and were not seen again until dinner. Meanwhile, she was left with a quiet home in which she could actually hear herself think. My kids, on the other hand, are outside for one or two hours before they are pressing their noses up against the front door begging to come back in.
In her brilliance, she also convinced our teenage selves that outside employment is fun, respectable and financially rewarding. I had my share of jobs throughout those teenage years: babysitter, lifeguard, swim instructor and field hand. During those turbulent middle school summers, my mother did not dissuade me from boarding a 5 a.m. bus to the strawberry fields of Skagit Valley.
Instead of spending the day sleeping until noon, I spent my time picking strawberries for $1 per crate. Besides picking the berries, we would eat the berries, throw the berries at each other and mush them into each other’s hair. By the end of summer, I reeked of slightly rotting fruit. My hands were stained bright red, and I realized that strawberry picking was not a financially sound career option for me.
I also vowed never to eat another strawberry again. And I didn’t…for decades.
But then, the tiny Hood strawberry weaseled its way into my life. Those irresistible, red bundles of goodness that smell like the start of summer would taunt me at the farmers’ market. I finally gave in to the temptation. Now, every year at about this time, I start anticipating the fleeting (May-June) Hood strawberry season.
I am still anxiously awaiting the Hoods’ arrival this year. In the meantime, I’ve been enjoying the strawberries currently brightening the produce section of my local grocer. I’ve been marinating them in a little balsamic vinegar and scooping them on top of granola and yogurt for a breakfast parfait, with a twist.
2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½-1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Your favorite granola, or a hearty cereal such as a buckwheat variety
8 mint leaves, minced
Optional: a drizzle of honey
Place your strawberries in a bowl and gently stir in the vinegar, sugar, and black pepper. Add full amount of sugar if your strawberries are not super sweet. Add less if they are. Set aside to marinate for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Place a scoop of granola or cereal into 4 small bowls. Layer on a scoop of plain yogurt and top with strawberries. Sprinkle with mint leaves. Add a drizzle of honey if you like some extra sweetness. Enjoy!