In this month of Mary, my thoughts ever turn toward strawberries. They are, after all, her fruit. Not the huge, spongy variety that turns up on supermarket shelves in the cold winter months, mind you. But the small, sweet variety that began to appear this week in the stands of the Trenton Farmer’s Market.
The sight of them this lunchtime, being dusted free of sandy soil and placed like rubies into small green baskets at the Russo’s Orchard Lane Farm Stand in the Trenton Farmer’s Market made my heart skip a beat.
These are as close to wild strawberries as can be found right now and put me hungrily in mind of the wild strawberries — the designated fruit of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the blessed souls in heaven — that I remember so fondly from the pilgrimage to Rome we took in 2000.
Those strawberries, served simply with fresh cream, were the best I’d ever eaten in my life and I spent the next several years trying to find a reasonable facsimile of them here. At the Russo farm stand, I told Nikki Russo about my quest to find Mary’s fruit here at home and how wonderful it was to find it right around the corner from the Pastoral Center.
Nikki said this isn’t the first time she’s heard the strawberries here abouts compared to those in Italy. It must be something similar in the soil, she said, or maybe the water.
Whatever it is, I’ll take it.
Strawberries have been part of the celebration of this Marian month for as long as I can remember. Mom always created one of her wonderful strawberry shortcakes with fresh whipped cream to celebrate.
Since brother Pete and I (and our friends) really love pie, I’ll be baking up a simple strawberry pie this weekend in her honor.
This very easy recipe was adapted from the internet. I hope you enjoy it.
Ingredients: 1 9 inch prepared pie crust, baked; 1 1/2 quarts strawberries, well cleaned; 1 cup white sugar; 3 tablespoons cornstarch; 3/4 cup spring water; 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream.
Directions: Arrange half of the strawberries in the baked pie shell. In a medium saucepan, lightly mash the remaining berries and combine with sugar in a medium saucepan. Set aside briefly. In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water. Place the strawberries in the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. When the strawberries come to a boil, gradually stir the cornstarch mixture into the strawberry mxiture. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour the mixture over the berries in the pastry shell and chill for at least two hours. In a mixing bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Then serve each slice of pie with a healthy topping of whipped cream.