This year the strawberries came early — earlier by as many as two weeks, according to Adam Hausmann of Adam’s Berry Farm in the Intervale. (I frequent his stand at the Burlington Farmers Market.)
At least in the Burlington area, the pick-your-own season is definitely winding down this week. I did manage to get my own personal picking crew (three teenage boys) out for a quick strawberry gathering expedition last Monday, down to Last Resort Farm in Monkton, where the berries were small but wonderfully sweet during their last three days of pick-your-own. We gathered about four quarts, a paltry amount in the scheme of things, but we had Mount Philo to climb and the teenagers were growing restless.
It would have been easy enough to eat the berries out of hand, or on buttermilk biscuits topped with soft dollops of whipped cream, as we had enjoyed other local berries I’d purchased for our Father’s Day meal. But I was determined to provide a more special creation to showcase these seasonal gems.
The crowd demanded strawberry-rhubarb pie, but unfortunately I had let my rhubarb bolt into bitterness. Besides, I felt like doing something more elegant, so I turned to “Pie it Forward,” released earlier this year by Vermont-based cookbook author and baking expert, Gesine Bullock-Prado, who contributed her recipe for salted caramels to our Cooking in Season column last winter.
The berries were so naturally sweet I decided to use them uncooked in her gorgeous strawberry tart which starts with a buttery crust filled with sweetened crème fraîche before it is filled with sliced, lemon-zest-spangled berries and then whole berries to finish.
I was supposed to glaze each whole berry individually but I skipped that step. Teenage boys, after all, don’t care a whole lot whether their berries are shiny or not ― and I thought the berries were perfect just the way they were.