Strawberries are ripe for celebration

"Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did."

Dr. William Butler, 17th-century English writer

Sweet, delicate and lovely, the strawberry has

been cultivated for cen­turies – and before it was cultivated, people would search woodlands to find the tiny red fruits hidden under green leaves.

Pagans associated them with love, and Christians with righteousness. For Native Americans, they represented rebirth and good health, and recent epidemiological studies have associated strawber­ry consumption with low­er rates of hypertension, inflammation, cancer and death from cardiovascu­lar diseases.

But we eat them be­cause they taste good, and they taste best this time of year, when they come from local farms, not from California.

So, let’s celebrate at a local spring festival. They’re happening in Bedford, Hollis, Temple and Wilton.

Bedford

The eighth annual Bed­ford Strawberry Festival will be held from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, June 18, at the Bedford Performance Stage, next to the town pool.

There will be straw­berry shortcake and other food, plus a bounce house, face painting, an obstacle course, vendors, clubs and raffles. A fire engine and police cruiser will be on display with their lat­est technology.

The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Town of Bedford Cemeteries.

Hollis

Local strawberries, homemade biscuits, homemade ice cream and hand-whipped cream at­tract crowds every year to the Hollis Strawberry Festival.

The festival will be held from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, June 26, on the town com­mon, and there will be en­tertainment by the Hollis Town Band.

In case of rain, it will be held in at Holls Brookline Middle School, 25 Main St.

Temple

Strawberry growing and strawberry tasting will be the focus at Temple Town Hall on Saturday, June 18, starting with an illus­trated talk at 3 p.m. by berry-breeding experts. The presenters, professor Tom Davis and Dr. Lise Mahoney, will discuss their work on "Building a better (straw)berry."

At 4 p.m., the program will turn to eating, with strawberry shortcake made with homemade bis­cuits, whipped cream and berries from Barrett Hill Farm in Mason. A dona­tion is requested.

The Strawberry Social is sponsored by the Tem­ple Democrats, the town committee of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. The social is open to all who want to learn about or eat strawber­ries, regardless of politi­cal persuasion. For more information, call 315-8371.

Wilton

The First Unitarian Congregational Society will hold its ninth an­nual Strawberry Festival from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Satur­day, June 18, at The Red House, 598 Isaac Frye Highway.

There will be strawber­ry shortcake, hamburgers, hot dogs, chips and soda, and a bounce house for the kids.

Tables are available for crafters and yard sale items. Call Carolyn Roy at 654-9561. Information: uuwilton.org.

Strawberry recipes

Strawberry sauce

This sauce can be used to spoon over yogurt with fresh strawberries, ice cream, pound cake or your favorite dessert. Great as a topping for pancakes and waffles, too.

2/3 cup sugar

1 pint strawberries, washed and hulled

1/3 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan, stir and bring to a boil. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved.

Allow the syrup to cool completely. Hasten cool­ing by setting pan in a shallow bowl of ice water.

Place half the berries in the jar of a blender; add lemon juice and all the cooled syrup. Puree until smooth.

Press through a fine sieve to remove some of the strawberry seeds, if desired.

Coarsely chop remain­ing strawberries and add to strawberry puree. Serve.

Can be stored refriger­ated, in covered contain­ers, for up to four days.

Strawberry banana shake

This breakfast shake is quick and nutritious. Eliminate the jam if de­sired and use an addition­al 1/2 cup strawberries.

1 cup skim milk

3 tablespoons wheat germ

1 tablespoon strawberry jam

1/2 cup sliced strawber­ries

1 small very ripe banana

4 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender; blend on high speed until smooth, scrap­ing down ingredients in blender if necessary. Di­vide into two tall glasses and drink with a straw. Makes 2 servings.

Strawberry muffins

Firm fresh strawberries work best in this recipe, but when the season is over, substitute blueber­ries, cherries or chopped peaches.

2 1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking pow­der

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup melted butter

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pint fresh strawber­ries, hulled and chopped

Additional sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 400 de­grees. Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line muffin cups with paper cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking pow­der, baking soda and salt, and stir until all ingredi­ent are well blended.

In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, eggs and vanilla. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour liquid mixture in and the strawberries.

Using a large spoon, fold ingredients just until moist; do not overmix.

Spoon the batter even­ly into 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin with about 1/2 teaspoon sugar, if desired.

Bake 20-25 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

Recipes courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension website