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recipes

Dec 12 2012

A short personal history of fruitcake

by Dea Anne M

Most of my childhood Christmas holidays were spent with my paternal grandparents and my large, boisterous clan on that side of the family. For us kids, most of the excitement revolved around waking up Christmas morning to see what Santa had left us then (as if we weren’t greedy enough) opening presents later in the morning. Christmas dinner was usually served around 2:00 pm and featured the eagerly anticipated turkey with cornbread dressing as well as my favorite glazed, baked ham. Having been reared mostly in the Northeast and Central Florida, I was unaccustomed to the country style cooking of the South. It was, shall we say, exotic. My mother, an excellent cook with an adventurous palate, usually prepared what she thought everyone would eat and by “everyone” I mean me and my even pickier younger brother. Christmas dinner green beans cooked just about forever with a piece of salt pork were more than acceptable but giblet gravy? Forget about it! Most alien of all perhaps was the once-a-year appearance of the edible substance known as fruitcake. In my grandmother’s house there were two kinds, “light cake” and “dark cake”, and neither one in any way suggested cake to me. First of all, they were loaf-shaped and bare of embellishment.  I knew good and well that a proper cake consisted of two or three round layers heavily frosted. Even worse were the weird red and green pieces studded throughout the cake which I now know were candied cherries. I’m sure I would have liked fruitcake just fine had I deigned to taste it, but there were always cookies and banana pudding both of which settled the dessert question just fine for us persnickety youngsters.

You may already know that Georgia boasts the Fruitcake Capitol of the World, Claxton GA, home of the Claxton Fruitcake Company but did you know that Corsicana TX can make the same claim as it is equally famous for the fruitcakes produced by the Collin Street Bakery? Fruitcake is by no means unique to the U.S. In the Bahamas, dried fruit and nuts are soaked in dark rum for up to 3 months and then more rum is poured on top of the baked cake while it’s still hot. That recipe wouldn’t have passed muster with my grandmother, a strict teetotaler, but everyone might have eaten more fruitcake if it had. Italians eat a highly spiced fruitcake at Christmas time called panforte. In Romania fruitcake goes by the name Cozonac, in Switzerland it’s Birnenbrot, and the people of  Trinidad enjoy a boozy confection called Black Cake which is similar to the  Bahamanian fruitcake.

If you bake fruitcake for the holidays, you likely already follow a trusted family recipe. If not, you could do worse than picking up a copy of  The All-American Christmas Cookbook: family favorites from every state by Georgia Orcutt and John Margolies and baking the “Fabulous Fruitcake.” Inspired by the fruitcake from the Collin Street Bakery (the actual recipe is apparently a closely guarded secret) it contains a wealth of dried fruit, nuts, and Calvados and looks pretty delicious to me. As promised by the title, the book features a holiday recipe from every state in the union (Georgia’s contribution is Cranberry-Pecan Chutney) and features adorable vintage illustrations. If the idea of Caribbean Black Cake appeals, you’ll find recipe in for it in Warm Bread and Honey Cake: home baking from around the world by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra. For a proper British fruitcake, check out Nigella Christmas: food, family, friends, festivities by Nigella Lawson. Lawson presents a really delicious looking “Incredibly Easy Chocolate Fruit Cake” as well as “Gorgeously Golden Fruitcake” which she describes as “the fruity blonde sister of the brunette temptress” (meaning the chocolate version). Anyway, both look wonderful and well worth baking plus the golden fruitcake is gluten free.

Finally, I can’t leave the subject of cake without mentioning two of my favorite cake-centric books (although fruitcake doesn’t make an appearance in either). One is Vintage Cakes: timeless recipes for cupcakes, flips, rolls, layer, angel, bundt, chiffon, and icebox cakes for today’s sweet tooth by Julie Richardson. This book features beautiful photographs and boasts a truly impressive array of delicious sounding cake recipes. Just reading about such creations as  Lovelight Chocolate Chiffon Cake, Blackout Cake, and Watergate Cake with Impeachment Frosting make me want to get out my mixing bowls and beaters right now. Also highly recommended is The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn. I’d be the first person to admit that I can be a bit of a snob when it comes to mixes and culinary short cuts but Byrn really understands what she’s doing. I know people who swear by this book and always produce cakes both beautiful and delicious. Allow me to recommend the Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting. This spectacular cake is one that my mother pulls out for special occasions and, for a strawberry lover like me, it comes close to cake heaven. Be sure not miss Chocolate from the the Cake Mix Doctor and The Cake Mix Doctor Returns! also by Byrn.

What’s your opinion on fruitcake? Do you have a beloved recipe?

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Oct 31 2012

Talking Turkey!

by Amanda L

If you have been reading DCPLive for a while, you might have picked up that I love the outdoors and I love to cook. November is a great time to be out enjoying the change of seasons. With Thanksgiving approaching, my thoughts turn to turkeys, both in the great outdoors and for eating.

I’m sure most people know that the turkey might have been our national bird if the bald eagle had not been so majestic. Over the years, I have had a lot of personal experience with turkeys. One year, I was sitting on the ground being real still and quiet when a hen walked up to me within three feet. We startled each other and then she went running off. A couple of weeks ago, I was in the woods close to dark and it sounded like an invasion in the sky. To my delight it was a flock of turkeys going to roost.

The Library has a few books on turkeys. Wild Turkeys by Dorthy Hinshaw Patent is a children’s book that talks about the life cycle, habitat and behavior of these birds. The Turkey: an American Story by Andrew F. Smith is an adult book that looks at the symbolism of the bird, the characteristics and habitat as well as how to cook the turkey. If you ever wanted to call in a turkey while in the woods, you might want to check out Turkey calls and calling: guide to improving your turkey talking skills by Steve Hickoff.

As I said, I love to watch these birds in their natural surroundings but I also like to eat turkeys. I have eaten a wild turkey once and I have to say that it was much dryer and smaller than those that are raised domestically. The Library has a few cooking books dedicated to this bird. How to Cook a Turkey and all of those trimmings from the editors of Fine Cooking magazine covers dishes for that big Thanksgiving day dinner. Looking for a few recipes to try for your slow cookery? Try the Italian Slow Cooker by Michelle Scicolone. Finally, the Butterball Turkey Cookbook by the Butterball Turkey Company has everything you wanted to know about cooking a turkey all in one book.

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Oct 17 2012

Soup of the evening

by Dea Anne M

Beautiful soup so rich so green,

Waiting in a hot tureen

Who for such dainties would not stoop?

Soup of the evening, Beautiful Soup!

Soup of the evening, Beautiful Soup!

– from Lewis Carroll

The Mock Turtle recites the poem quoted above in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. John Tenniel’s classic illustration reveal a very odd creature who has the shell and front flippers of a sea turtle and the feet, head, and tail of a calf. The Mock Turtle baffled me as a very young child but its absurd appearance becomes obvious once you understand that Carroll was spinning a visual joke on the typical British Victorian’s extreme fondness for soup made from the meat of the sea turtle. Almost as popular as that concoction was a much cheaper, and more readily available, version made from the “lesser used” parts of a calf. The Mock Turtle is described as a melancholy creature and the speculation among the other characters is that this is so because he used to be a “real” turtle. My opinion is that he may feel gloomy about his ultimate fate. When the Red Queen asks Alice if she has seen the Mock Turtle yet, Alice says that she doesn’t know what a Mock Turtle is. The Queen replies: “It’s the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from.”

I’ve never tasted turtle soup or its mock counterpart and, as Alice might say, shouldn’t hope to. I do like soup though, both cooking it and eating it, especially this time of year. Once the weather turns cool, there’s just something about a hot bowl of soup that makes me feel secure and comforted, especially if it’s wet outside as well. Recently, a co-worker who was in need of some comfort asked me to give her a few soup recipes. “Easy ones,” she said. I suspect that by “easy” she means “quick” and, for me at least, soup-making is a puttering sort of activity—enjoyable but hardly speedy. I hope that I can encourage her to take her time and sink into the process. In any case, I’m going to pass on two of my favorite recipes—Leek Potato Soup and Lentil Soup with Garlic Sausage. Both take time but reward the effort many times over.

Would you like to explore the pleasures of soup-making? Check out these resources from DCPL.

The Daily Soup Cookbook by Leslie Kaul showcases recipes from the Manhattan restaurant (now closed) by the same name. Offerings include Peking Duck Soup and Jamaican Pumpkin. There are even ideas for leftovers.

The Soup Peddler’s Slow & Difficult Soups: recipes and reveries by David Ansel presents such delights as Alaskan Salmon Chowder and Smoked Tomato Bisque. In 2002 Ansel, a former computer programmer, started vending soup to his grateful customers out of a cooler strapped to his bicycle. Full of stories about the often eccentric residents of Austin TX, this promises to be as fun a read as it is a useful cookbook.

My mind often turns to thoughts of soup on a leisurely Sunday afternoon and Sunday Soup: a year’s worth of mouth-watering, easy-to-make recipes by Betty Rosbottom looks capable of delivering plenty of inspiration. Recipes like Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Cider Cream and Gulf Coast Shrimp Gumbo look perfect for this time of year and the beautiful photographs make me want to want to get to the farmer’s market as soon as possible (on the way to my kitchen, of course).

Finally, I have to mention a charming book about sharing and friendship. Not a cookbook, it is, nonetheless, well worth seeking out and has my favorite title of all the books that I mention here. It is The Cat Who Liked Potato Soup by Terry Farrish.

What’s your favorite soup? Do you like quick recipes or would you rather take your time?

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Aug 22 2012

Cooking the books

by Dea Anne M

I am just one of a legion of fans who love George R.R. Martin’s series of novels collectively known as A Song of Ice and Fire. Halfway into the first book, A Game of Thrones, I knew that I was hooked. Martin’s work inspires a great deal of admiration and devotion in his followers and has been, in fact,  the subject of several posts on this blog ( for example here and here).  One of the latest Martin-inspired creations is the wonderful cookbook A Feast of Ice and Fire: the official companion cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Leher. Truly a labor of love, this book is compiled from the authors’ clever blog, The Inn at the Crossroads (featured in this post by my fellow blogger Jesse). A prominent feature of Martin’s series is his detailed descriptions of meals enjoyed (or not) by his characters. Monroe-Cassel and Leher’s blog project recreates dishes from the different regions that Martin has invented for his books. One of my favorite aspects of both the blog and the cookbook is that there is often a medieval version of the recipe on offer as well as a modern version. The authors have clearly done their research regarding the cooking and flavors of medieval Europe and their notes on the recipes are fascinating to read. Plus the recipes sound delicious!  I for one can’t wait to try cooking the Quails Drowned in Butter and the Almond Crusted Trout.  If you too are a fan of Martin’s work, I encourage you to check out this very interesting work. I promise you don’t have to be a cook to enjoy it!

DCPL has other cookbooks inspired by works of fiction that you may want to look into. Jan Karon’s Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader edited by Martha McIntosh includes recipes for dishes mentioned throughout Karon’s much beloved Mitford series. Joanne Fluke, who writes a mystery series featuring bakery owner Hannah Swensen regales fans with Joanne Fluke’s Lake Eden Cookbook which features new recipes as well as those from the books. For the younger set, don’t miss The Little House Cookbook: frontier foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s classic stories by Barbara Walker if you’re a fan, as was I, of the Ingalls/Wilder saga. Finally, check out Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook: recipes inspired by Dr. Seuss! by Georgeanne Brennan. Included are recipes for (among many others) Pink Yink Ink Drink, Glunker Stew, and yes, Green Eggs and Ham featuring guacamole, cilantro, and parsley.

Do you have a favorite cookbook inspired by a work of fiction? Is there a book that you’d love to see inspire a cookbook?

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As July ends so does National Ice Cream month. What better way to celebrate than to make some ice cream. Last year, I had a friend that shared all of the different flavors she was creating. Some of the flavors that she created were your typical vanilla, chocolate, etc. However, she did make a bacon ice cream that made me intrigued on what other unique flavors might be available.

I remember as a child, making ice cream by putting the ingredients in an ice cream maker, placing rock salt and ice around the bucket. One of us would sit on the top of the machine while someone else used the hand crank to make the ice cream. If you haven’t made ice cream in a while, the new machines can be quite easy. I purchased one last year where you just put the ice cream bucket in the freezer for twenty-four hours, add the ingredients and then plug it in for about about twenty minutes. This year so far, I have made vanilla, lime and mint-chocolate chip.

Looking for recipes for ice cream or frozen yogurt? The library has a few books that might inspire you.

If you are looking for a cozy mystery to celebrate National Ice Cream month try I scream, you scream: a mystery a la mode by Wendy Lyn Watson. Ms. Watson has a series of ice cream parlor mysteries. Finally, what is your favorite ice cream or the weirdest flavor you have ever tried?

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Jun 27 2012

A fine pickle

by Dea Anne M

For me, every gardening season brings its own unique excitment and pleasures, and right now I’m re-experiencing the joys of the first summer produce. Ripe tomatoes, snappy beans, tart tomatillos—I love them all. This year, with the increased yields due to our raised bed garden, I’m eager to really dive in and start canning, pickling, and otherwise preserving the fruits of my labor. In the meantime, I’ve been discovering inspiration at the farmers market. While shopping a few weeks back, I selected a bag of Kirby cucumbers. These are the cute, chubby cukes (I think of them as the Golden Retriever puppy of the vegetable world) and they are meant for pickles. I wanted to start out with something easy and refrigerator pickles fill that bill. I’d been casting around for a good recipe/technique. One was too sweet. Another rendered my crisp little cukes into tasteless mini-blimps hued an unappetizing grayish green. Finally, I tried Ted Allen’s recipe from his fun new cookbook In My Kitchen: 100 recipes for food-lovers, passionate cooks, and enthusiastic eaters. This was it! An abundance of whole spices like coriander and mustard seeds along with plenty of garlic and chile peppers make for the crispy savory pickle of my dreams. I was planning to include a photo of my latest batch but I’m a little embarrassed to say that the jar already looks pretty picked over since, at my house, we can’t seem to stay away from it. Here’s an image of the recipe from the Food Network website. You’ll see that Ted’s pickles include cauliflower and carrot. I have used only cukes so far – with great results – but now that I have the technique more or less mastered I am looking forward to trying it with other types of produce.

Pretty much anyone who knows me knows that I love kitchen oriented “projects.” Does that describe you too? If so, DCPL has resources to help. I’m amused to look back and see that I posted on this exact topic just a little over a year ago, but I suppose that’s a testament to my seasonal enthusiasm. Here are some new books that will be of interest to those just coming to canning and preserving as well as those more experienced in the art of putting food by.

Food in jars: preserving in small batches year-round by Marisa McClellan

Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It: and other kitchen projects by Karen Solomon

Canning and Preserving All-In-One for Dummies by Eve Adamson

The Preservation Kitchen: the craft of making and cooking with pickles, preserves, and aigre-doux by Paul Virant

As an aside, one of my ongoing kitchen projects has been making a batch of yogurt every week. The technique involves no exotic equipment—just a saucepan, a bowl, a strainer, and some porous cloth—and the only ingredients are milk and a spoonful of the current batch of yogurt. It’s so easy to do and makes an absolutely delicious quart of  Greek style yogurt. I learned how from Jennifer Reese’s wonderful book Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: what you should and shouldn’t cook from scratch – over 120 recipes for the best homemade foods. This book is very entertaining, often hilarious, and it truly does tell you what costs less or tastes better to make and what you’ll do better to buy. Highly recommended!

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Jun 13 2012

Art and appetite

by Dea Anne M

I think I can say that I’m not the biggest Hemingway fan in the world but probably the book of his that I like best is A Moveable Feast — his memoir, told in a series of essays, of his life in Paris after WWI. Perhaps part of my admiration for that book has to do with my fascination with a period of history when  so many American writers, artists, and thinkers made the choice to live and work in Europe far from the limits and conventions of home. Many of these expatriates were not without a safety net though, and I have to admit that a particular passage in Hemingway’s book irritated me for awhile.

“It is necessary to handle yourself better when you have to cut down on food so you will not get too much hunger-thinking. Hunger is a good discipline and you learn from it.”

“Hunger is Good Discipline,” A Moveable Feast

Now, Hemingway was far from starving in Paris as his wife Hadley came into the marriage with an inheritance that supported them more than comfortably (of course those dollars went a long way in the Paris of those times). “Hmph!” I thought, convinced as I was that Hemingway was merely posturing. These days, I think a bit more kindly about those lines as a re-reading of the book not too long ago reminded me that the book as a whole deals in many ways with hunger  not so much of the physical body but of the spirit. Hemingway is hungry in these essays for experience and for the dedicated pursuit of art. I believe now that I was overly influenced by a later persona of Hemingway who honestly mostly struck me as a macho braggart. A Moveable Feast reminds me how much more there is to Hemingway as a writer and how very enjoyable his prose can be.

All this musing about Hemingway has been inspired by a favorite website that I have recently discovered, Paper and Salt, whose stated mission is to “…attempt to recreate and reinterpret the dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries, essays, and fiction.” The site hasn’t been up for a long time and there are not, as yet, a huge number of posts but the writing is both eloquent and entertaining, the photography is beautiful, and the recipes…well,  they’ve made me want to get into my kitchen as quickly as I can and start cooking. I don’t know about you, but Lobster Tail with Spaghetti and Bread Crumbs inspired by the letters of Gabriel Garcia Marquez sounds pretty scrumptious. Apparently,  Marquez enjoyed a long-time correspondence with Fidel Castro and many of their letters involved discussions on best methods of preparing seafood. Oscar Wilde was famous, if not notorious, for his love of champagne and his recipe is a luscious sounding cocktail involving the bubbly stuff and fresh strawberries. I think my favorite post so far though is the one for Truman Capote and Italian Summer Pudding. In Too Brief a Treat: the letters of Truman Capote Capote writes “Food. I seldom think of anything else.” I’m not quite that obsessed (I think), but the posted recipe is certainly something that I wouldn’t mind my thoughts lingering on. Featured ingredients are bittersweet chocolate, raspberries, ladyfingers, and mascarpone cheese. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I think it’s irresistible. Need proof? Just look…

Image from paperandsalt.org

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Jul 29 2011

ShareReads: Summer Memories Shared…

by ShareReads

ShareReads appears on the DCPLive blog on Fridays. Each week, a different person will share a little about what they’re currently reading, and why they like or don’t like it. The heart of ShareReads will be responses from blog readers, and the window of opportunity here is wide. Feel free to respond and discuss the book or author being mentioned, ask or answer a question, or even take the conversation in a different direction: mention what you are currently reading, and how you feel about it. The point of ShareReads is to have an ongoing discussion about books and reading. Remember: posting a response also counts as an activity for the Summer Reading for Adults program.

Today I’m inspired to share some books I found when I perused the New Books shelves at my local library. I chose two books that seem related to me in some obscure, difficult to explain manner. The first is of local interest, From Mud to Jug: The Folk Potters and Pottery of Northeast Georgia by John A. Burrison. Several decades ago I was fortunate enough to take a class from Burrison when he was a new faculty member at Ga State. I can still recall the ardor he had for local, folk items, so this over size paperback illustrated with lots of color photographs grabbed my attention immediately.

This book offers chapters on the history of folk pottery, two clans (Meaders and Hewells) that represent the long tradition of North Georgia potters, the production process and traditional functions of this type of pottery and all you need to know about the relatively new Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia in the Sautee Nacoochee Community. This book delighted the eyes, awakened childhood memories of car trips through the northern part of Georgia with my family, and made me want to head north again to visit the new museum and learn more about folk pottery in general. Toward that end, Burrison included lists of potters and of books on Southern folk pottery.

The second book is Ready for Dessert: My Best Recipes by David Lebovitz, a food blogger par excellence who previously made desserts for Chez Panisse in Berkeley after training as a baker in France and Belgium. I’ve only eaten at CP once, on a late summer day, but I swear it is his chocolate cake that stays “tattooed” on my taste buds and calls me back there again. This is a luscious, large format book also full of compelling color photographs adjacent to complicated but not complex “company and holiday” desserts. I’m told the average adult gains a pound a year. I’ve vowed (unsuccessfully) to make it a cookbook a year instead. My theory is that if you read it instead of doing it, you can learn a lot for when a grand dessert is simply unavoidable—and try to limit the weight gain to a half pound.

Imagine spending an hour or more in your favorite reading place, with something you enjoy drinking when your taste buds need to settle down. Open this book and browse through the hints about ingredients and equipment that he puts up front. Then pick your place to dive in from: cakes; pies, tarts and fruit; custards, soufflés and puddings; frozen desserts; cookies and candies; and basics, sauces, and preserves. Wow, so hard to choose, but feeling faint I go from cakes to cookies and candies and then settle down with the basic, sauces and preserves which offers multiple photos of just how various stages should look when you are caramelizing (both wet and dry methods). I can hardly wait to start making holiday gifts of candied cherries, orange peel and ginger. I know many folks search by ingredients or name and pull their recipes offline now. I’m just not that efficient and pragmatic. I love old cookbooks with ample notes and stains, and big, new cookbooks all pristine and seductive. I can almost taste the photos and do, sometimes, to coax myself into waiting. After awhile my brain is awash in many, varied recipes I want to, will to, make … eventually. Now that is a wonderful hour spent in anticipation and few to no calories (depending on the drink).

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Jul 13 2011

Real spicy…

by Dea Anne M

July 13th is the birthday of Paul Prudhomme, the New Orleans based chef who opened the legendary restaurant K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in 1979. K-Paul’s became famous for its renditions of the distinctive Cajun cuisine of Louisiana. Many argue that Cajun cooking along with Louisiana Creole is a truly American cuisine (as opposed to being a type of regional cooking) with a body of classic and unique dishes and techniques. Gumbo, jambalaya, maque choux, and “blackened” fish are some of the typical dishes you will find at K-Pauls and other restaurants all over Louisiana.

Think you might want to try this style of cooking at home? DCPL has got you covered.

First up is Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen which features all the Cajun classics beloved by all who crave this cuisine. Or you might try The 100 Greatest Cajun Recipes by Jude W. Theriot for a comprehensive take on some of the core Cajun dishes.

Perhaps you’d like to explore Creole cooking. Thought of by many as more suave and urbane than Cajun, Creole certainly has its passionate adherents and is very well represented in the “Old Guard” of New Orleans restaurants which include Commander’s Palace and Arnaud’s. Check out Arnaud’s Restaurant Cookbook by Kit Wohl or Commander’s Kitchen by Ti Adelaide Martin and Jackie Shannon.

A new addition to the canon of Cajun cookbooks, and one that I like a lot, is Donald Link’s Real Cajun: rustic home cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana. Link is the chef/owner of Cochon and Herbsaint restaurants in New Orleans and his book is definitely the real thing. Well-written and lavishly illustrated, it is, I must warn you, a bit pork-centric. All told it’s a fine overview of a fascinating native cuisine.

So…Laissez les bons temps rouler! Not to mention Bon appetit!

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May 13 2011

Strawberry Season

by Ardene W

It’s strawberry season! Strawberry shortcake, strawberry smoothies, angel food cake with strawberries . . . yum! I have fond memories of picking berries in my grandparents’ garden, and not-so-fond memories as an older child of picking them at home, where it became a chore to pick and freeze strawberries every day at the height of the season.

Strawberries grow wild in many places, but did you know that the ones we eat today are descendents of a cross between a flavorful North American native, Fragaria virginia, and a variety from Chile and Argentina, Fragaria chiloensis, with large fruit? And though it isn’t the reason I eat them, they are good sources of Vitamin C.

I eat strawberries, of course, because they taste good. And fresh ones taste better than the ones from the store. Every spring I wish I had planted some in my yard last fall. Luckily for me, there are pick-your -own farms nearby. Take a look at the Georgia Strawberry Growers web page to find a farm near you, or check out the list at this website. If your experience is like mine, it will take you longer to drive there and back than it will take to pick a bucket full.

And if you’re not sure what to do with the bounty, check out these resources at the library:

Although it’s late in the season for planting, you can find out more about growing strawberries at the library too.

Or check out the Georgia Extension Service’s guide to growing strawberries at home.

Finally, if you just don’t want to get out in the sun, here are a few books that feature strawberries:

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