Strawberry Fields: Strawberry cobbler

  

Strawberry Fields Forever, The Beatles

In 1950s small-town Nebraska, strawberries were not a big thing, either in size or in importance. Everyone grew a few in their backyard garden, made a little jam if they had extra, and enjoyed a few rounds of strawberry shortcake. Our berry game changed when we started visiting my Aunt Norma and Gramma Lottie on Vashon Island. There was the annual Strawberry Festival, buckets of frozen berries from the Kiwanis Club (perfect for jam), coerced child labor in Mr. Mukai’s berry fields, sliced strawberries and cream on our morning bowl of Cheerios, Muth’s Strawberry Pie (flakey crust piled high with berries barely held together with red Jello), and Normie’s strawberry sauce over home-cranked vanilla ice cream.

I’m sure sending six children under the age of twelve to the fields to pick fruit, didn’t seem cruel and unusual to Muth and Aunt Normie—they just wanted a little peace and quiet. We six would trudge off (Nikki in charge) without adult supervision, to Manzanita Road to wait for the old school bus to take us to the fields. Marshall strawberries, first to the harvest in late June, were our favorite crop—easy to pick, good to eat, convenient to throw. At the end of the day, when we walked in the door of Normie’s high-bank, waterfront cabin, we were sunburned, tired, dirty, and stained red from fingertips to bare toes. If anyone was bleeding, no one knew about it until bath-time.

After strawberries came red currants: squishy to pick, too sour to eat, but satisfying to throw. At the end of the summer, we took Harlan’s bus and our hard-earned money (paid out each day in coins and dollar bills) into Seattle and the Pike Place Market. Lunch was at Lowell’s window counter (“Almost classy since 1950”), on the ground floor of the Market. We had already eaten a cup of clam chowder on the ferry, so we ordered Alaska cod and chips with sourdough rolls—exotic fare for Midwesterners. After lunch we headed downstairs to the Giant Shoe Museum to see a shoe worn by the “tallest man in the world” and check out the tricks at the Magic Shop.

Although James Beard once described the Marshall as “the tastiest berry ever grown”, the delicate Marshall didn’t ship well and was eventually replaced by more robust, but less flavorful California varieties. In the late 1980s, the strawberry fields disappeared and the Vashon strawberry harvest came to an end. Recently, however, two Island women found heirloom Marshall seeds at the Corvallis Seed Repository, carefully cultivated them, and now are selling plants at the Saturday Market. Who knows, maybe Vashon’s next generation of six-year olds will be back in the fields, picking, eating, and throwing. 

Our Aunt Normie and Grandma Lottie in Vancouver B.C., circa 1945

Every late June, I make strawberry pie, with uneven results. This year’s attempt was not memorable, but Glenda’s strawberry cobbler was, so here is that recipe.

Strawberry cobbler

  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, diced
  • ½-3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375.


In a medium bowl, combine strawberries and ¾ cup sugar. Stir to coat strawberries in sugar and set aside.


In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.


Add milk, vanilla extract, and melted butter. Stir until combined—a few lumps are ok.


Grease a 9-inch casserole dish, pour batter evenly into dish.

 

Spoon strawberries evenly on top of batter. Do NOT stir.


Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden.

Serve warm or cold.

 

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5 Responses to Strawberry Fields: Strawberry cobbler

  1. Nancy says:

    Marla, brings back vivid memories of my strawberry picking days, social event of summer! Made around $100 working most of June in fields around Salkum, off Hey 12 on way to White Pass. My cousins and I worked fast and hard, competing with others but mainly with records from previous years. My mother made great lunches, the best!
    With my fortune, big trip to Portland buying amazing amount of skirts and sweaters.
    Memories of those berry field summers bring smiles. Thanks again for a look back.

  2. Ginny says:

    We earned .35/ flat as I recall.

  3. Anonymous says:

    My memory from your wonderful write up came from the farm to retail end of Strawberry season.
    Grandpa Honan’s store always had them on the produce counter, for locals and visitors from New York who came up to spend weekends in the Connecticut countryside along the Housatonic River. They always sold out.
    Strawberry time continued through teen years, when my parents moved to a new larger building they built and I got a driver’s license. Going by the farms around our village to pick up the flats of berries to sell was always a treat. ‘ll send a blurry scan of grandpa’s store. You can see the pencil print in my office next visit!

  4. Barb says:

    Mmmmmm. Love your post. It was Mayberry’s farm that we went. Love your memories

  5. I don’t have much time for cooking these days but when I have too many strawberries I throw them in the dehydrator. I’ve been making my own trail mix with them and shopping the bulk bins for ingredients (with my own reusable containers of course) It’s been fun. I would like to try the Marshall berries if I can ever get my hands on some! When I was a kid our neighbors grew the best berries ever!

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