Monday, July 5, 2010

A Place to Call Home and Wild Strawberries

I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekend. All I can say is - it's hot. With temperatures in the 90's, it's hard to find the motivation to do much gardening. As a result, like so many other chores on my to-do list, the weeds will have to wait yet another day.

The other night, Marc and I watched the movie, "Julie and Julia." Part bio pic of the late Julia Child's adventures in Paris during her formative years as a chef, it reminded me of how much I want our lives to be centered around good food (and how I would love to visit France one of these days).

One day, I hope to live in a town in which I can purchase the bulk of my family's food from local vendors as passionate about what they sold as we were about eating it. I would buy only what we planned to eat for the next day or two, not what will keep in its shrink wrap for weeks on end. In the early morning, I would head out to the local baker for some crusty artisan bread. The produce market would be bustling - stalls overflowing with what was seasonal and fresh. The local fishmonger would go on and on about the morning's catch. And the town's butcher would describe not only the different cuts of meat he sold, but also how the animals were raised and slaughtered.

If all of these wonderful things describe where YOU live, please let me know! Who knows, maybe one of these days, we'll be neighbors. (I'm a good one, I promise.) Admittedly, Marc and I haven't fully committed to where we're living now, and we're excited to do a bit of traveling during the next few years in order to find a place that means to us what Paris meant to Julia. Until such time this dream becomes a reality, we'll have to settle for what's growing in our garden and baking in our home oven.

So what does all of this have to do with wild strawberries? Let's just say you'll never find one of these at your local supermarket. But if you're lucky, you may come across it at an open air market in Europe. Sometimes, I wish I could properly convey to my non-gardening friends some of the truly wonderful things they are missing out on. Until earlier this week, I had never eaten a wild strawberry before. And if I hadn't decided to grow some this year, I may have lived the rest of my life without having experienced this pleasure.

I'm growing two varieties of wild strawberries (Red Wonder and Yellow Wonder). The seeds were started in the beginning of February. These perennial plants are just now starting to bloom aggressively. During the past few days, we've been able to sample a couple of each variety. Both are extremely delicious but the yellow ones in particular are a feast for the taste buds. Aside from the intense strawberry flavor you ordinarily get from the wild sort, I would describe Yellow Wonder as having an interesting floral taste as well, somewhat reminiscent of roses.

I've said this before but part of the joy in vegetable gardening for me is being able to grow varieties that are almost impossible to source commercially. Maybe if more of us did, we as a country would expect more from our food economy.

On a final note, I just realized that today is my one year blogging anniversary. Oh, what difference a year makes. Thank you all for participating in this growing journey with me. Your wisdom and guidance are much appreciated.


  1. Happy Blog Day! I grew Alpine Strawberries last year. My mom (now 70) came over one afternoon and walked right over to the alpines and said " I use to pick these when I was a little girl. They grow wild in the woods." She grew up in Finland. I hope you find your "France" where ever it may be.

  2. Nothing compares to wild strawberries. We have them growing in one spot, under some pine trees. They do taste and smell like roses.
    Here you can buy wild strawberries on the market, but I have never seen yellow ones.
    Happy 1st Blogversary!

  3. Happy Blogiversary! I've enjoyed every one of your posts this past year, and I sincerely hope you continue to share your gardening adventures and beautiful photos with us for many more years.

  4. Hey when you find that place will you let me know because thats where I want to live too and you sound like good neighbours to me. I'm thinking France Spain or Italy. I think maybe some of the east european countries would off this lifestyle too but I always worry about how stable some of them are.

  5. My yellow wonders haven't produced yet. Can't wait to taste !

    Happy blogiversary !

  6. Has it only been a year!! I feel like I've been reading and learning from your forever! You are an excellent blogger!

    I hope you find you Paris and live a long and "fruitful" life there!

  7. Happy Blogiversary! You are a wonderful writer and gardener :)

    "The Italian" and I would also love to live in a village as you described. I think that the only way we would have a village like that in this country, is to start it ourselves. We could all purchase a large amount of land and "The Italian" who is really an architect, could plot out and design our wonderful town!

  8. Happy 1 year anniversary! I have certainly enjoyed it. Hubby gets to go to Italy, Spain, Portugal, France and all those places are like that he says. I agree with Robin, I think here in the U.S. we would have to build that village ourselves, but we are up to moving to it!

  9. Happy Blogoversary Thomas! I really enjoyed the movie Julie & Julia too. As a blogger, I could really relate to Julie and as a person how likes to cook and eat I could also easily relate to Julia.

    It is unlikely we will move again and this is in all probability going to be where we retire enventually - so I am intent on making the most of the property I have. It is fun to dream about a new place in a better location though and I often do that envisioning what my garden would be like if I had unlimited area and ideal conditions. (sigh) It would be a thing of beauty!

  10. Come and live in Chesterfield here in the UK Thomas - it has everything you'd want!....some good local bakers, a great market, good fish stalls, an organic butchers with locally reared animals, a farmers market twice a month, a wonderful artisan cheese shop, several delis.....shall I go on?!!! - oh, and of course, there's all that glorious countryside to explore too! :D

  11. Brooklyn is calling you :-)

    I joke that I have to shop in Byzantine fashion. Here for bread, there for cheese, somewhere else for greens and fruit and so on and so on. Result, very fresh, made locally - actually, not true of cheese as I love French and Italian and Spanish cheese...I always shop for today, or perhaps tomorrow.

    You, on the other hand, have a greengrocer on site :-)

  12. And happy anniversary. Wow - just year? Your blog and you seem to have come a very long way in a very short time. Congratulations.

  13. Yes, that does kind of describe where we live - Chapel Hill, NC. Great place to live (and I say this as a San Diego transplant). Last year, Bon Appetit magazine named Chapel Hill/Durham (they're right next to each other) "America's Foodiest Small Town."

    There are no less than 4 (!!) grower-only farmer's markets in just the county I live in. I can think of at least 5 more grower markets off the top of my head in the region and I'm sure there are more.

    We have no problem getting pasture-raised beef, chicken, and pork year-round along with some specialties like duck during the year (our website has some of our favorite local farms linked).

    Sorry to go on and on, but you asked about good places to live. And it's quite liberal/progressive around here too :)

  14. Thanks everyone!

    Ms. Nutty Gnome - I would love to live in the UK. I've only been to Bath but Chesterfield sounds like a wonderful place to live. I. Must. Google!

    foodgardenkitchen - I'll have to check out your town! NC was actually a state we were looking into.

  15. Happy anniversary!
    Hope you find a nice place to settle in and become a happy farmer.

  16. What you described is one of the main reasons I want to live in a city and not the suburbs. To be able to walk places, such as the farmer's market, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, without having to pile into the car would be fantastic. Someday, like you say.

  17. I'm not sure I've ever known anyone who grows strawberries from seed! I think that is wonderful- and you certainly get a chance to grow some unusual varieties! Where did you get yours? Perhaps I will try that for next year.

    As to your dream of living in a place like that- me too! If you find it, let me know and we can be neighbors!

  18. Hi Taylor, I got my strawberry seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They were super easy to start.

  19. I'm with turling. One of the reasons we moved where we did was to be closer to the city and be able to walk or bike to things, but it is not anywhere close to what you are looking for (though they did have a great mom and pop fish market here that I adored- sadly they retired and closed down years ago). When I was right out of college I did live off Harvard Street in Allston when I first got married. We had a local butcher, fish store, and fruit and veggie store. I loved it. We also lived not too far from the Jewish section of Harvard Street in Brookline and the little stores there were fabulous. I loved Kupels Bakery. Sadly we don't have all that here. We don't want to live totally urban. The crush of people and lack of gardening space is just too much of a compromise.

    I go to the farmers market each week (which has everything from small vendors). But only from June-October - not even half the year. If it were twice a week and we could get fresh meat instead of all frozen and it were year round it would be perfect. I can always dream. America mostly isn't set up like you want it.

  20. The yellow (or white as they are sometimes called) alpine strawberries are the best. I've been spreading these around my yard for the last few years because the whole family loves them. We can never have too many.

  21. Another belated comment, I'm going through old feeds en masse this week...

    This post just made me smile, because it pretty much describes what I'd been thinking about regarding the differences in how we've been eating since moving from California to Finland. We went to the occasional farmer's market back in the US, but we mostly had to deal with supermarkets. And while I still love Trader Joe's, nothing can compare to the markets that I frequent now.

    We moved to a small Southern coastal town here Finland this past May and I've become obsessed with being able to buy produce the day it is picked. It's true what Liisa said in the first post, about berries growing abundantly -- we were snacking on wild strawberries while waiting for a ferry this summer, picking wild lingonberries while out on a stroll, and picking wild bilberries at the fiance's family summer home. It's a bit too dry for mushroom hunting this autumn (though the local chantarelles that did show up at the market were gorgeous), but you can bet I'll be trying that out next summer as well. The fiance has gotten used to my pointing at various plants on a daily basis and asking if they're edible ;-)

    The open air market, open every morning, is about a 10 minute walk away, in the historic old town full of 18th century wooden buildings. You end up seeing the same faces every few days, both vendors and fellow shoppers, and it's nice to not have to worry about constantly cleaning the fridge of leftovers from bulk shopping trips.

    This does make product availability much more seasonal, however, so if I get a craving for bananas or mangos, it's back to the supermarket I go. Best of both worlds, though!