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Cool spring gives us a berry bonanza
Enjoy fresh, local strawberries with sugar, marshmallow cream or just plain
A basket of fresh strawberries in the field at Jaemor Farms. Try them covered in chocolate, dipped in marshmallow sauce or simply straight-up. - photo by Tom Reed

Strawberry Balsamic Delight

6 Triscuit Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil Crackers
1 tablespoon low fat cream cheese
2 fresh strawberries, cut into three slices each
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Spread crackers with cream cheese and top with remaining ingredients.

Drew Echols, owner of Jaemor Farms in Alto, said he has just one way he likes to eat strawberries from this year’s first-ever crop on the farm — straight off the vine.

Although he admits to sometimes eating them dipped in a creamy, sugary fruit dip.

“You take a softened block of cream cheese and add a 1/2 cup of sugar and it’s so good,” he said.

Another adaptation of this recipe is using the block of softened cream cheese and a jar of marshmallow Fluff to dip any kind of fruit.

The strawberries Jaemor is harvesting right now are called camarosa strawberries, and they are juicy, super sweet and are hardy for picking and transporting back home.

“They kind of keep a little firmer texture and they are really sweet,” he said. “They don’t get real soft, so you can handle them. Strawberries are so fragile that you really want something that is fine textured, but you don’t want to lose flavor, so this is a variety that has both.”

The 5 1/2-acres of strawberries at Jaemor is a first for the farm, and so far the experiment has been a success.

“They like cool weather; they didn’t like the 90 degrees we had last week,” Echols said. “I’d like for it to stay in the upper 70s, low 80s, for the next couple weeks anyway. We’ll definitely have to do it again ... it’s been good for the first year. Assuming that the weather stays how it is and we don’t get a scorcher or hail, I think we will be in the strawberry business at least until June 1.”

At The Kneaded Perk Bakery on Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville, chocolate dipped strawberries and other strawberry items are available daily or for special order. Owner Lorne McCaslin said one of his favorite recipes at the eatery is a special order.

“We love our strawberry pound cake with strawberry preserve filling, and strawberry mouse butter cream,” he said.

Lana Stewart, a Buford cook with her own cooking blog called Never Enough Thyme, said she loves strawberries and just added a strawberry post on her blog. She found an interesting recipe on the Kraft Foods website that she said was easy and delicious.

“It was a strawberry and balsamic vinegar appetizer,” she said. “It just sounded interesting to me. It’s a real sophisticated combination of tastes, I thought, because the base of it is an olive oil and black pepper cracker, and then on top of that a little dollop of cream cheese and then a strawberry slice and a drop of balsamic vinegar. I thought that  combination of flavors is a classic Italian combination.”

Even with the different flavors and textures, Stewart said it was a great dish.

“It was really good,” said Stewart, who added the appetizer also is healthy. “... Especially if you use a low-fat cream cheese.”

But Stewart’s favorite way to enjoy strawberries is to make homemade strawberry preserves.

“I always make strawberry preserves, and that is the best way to preserve them all year round.”