Year-Round LOCAL Strawberries?!
Updated: May 5
Yes, you read that correctly! Alberta has a year-round strawberry growing greenhouse that can supply you with fresh, local strawberries, even in the dead of winter.
Kahou Farms, located near Watervalley, AB, is run and owned by three self-proclaimed "city kids" turned farmers. I had the pleasure of learning about their operation thanks to instagram. Since then, I've been thrilled with the products they currently have available. I first tried their beautifully coloured chicken eggs and their oyster mushrooms. They also produce fresh greens in their greenhouse and... strawberries! I don't know of any other producer that is doing year-round strawberries in Alberta. If you want to get your hands on their products they are available at the Tomato Man in the Calgary Farmers' Market, Just Ripe in Crowfoot, or you can visit their farm store. Also, you can even order through their instagram (minimum order of $25 and $3-$5 for delivery right to your door). Alyssa, one of the farmers and fellow Alberta College of Art + Design graduate, does deliveries into Calgary. It has been such a thrill to learn about Kahou Farms and I can say I am beyond excited to know that I can get my fix of local strawberries all year long...
And now, what to do with all these strawberries!? My favourite way to eat strawberries was inspired by a visit to France, which seems like a life-time ago. I was staying with a friend and his mother in Paris. His mother did not speak a word of English and I could only say "please" and "thank you" in French. We communicated through her son. Upon my arrival, I was telling her how much I loved the strawberries in Europe and how excited I was for them. I had to have a nap, as I was suffering from some pretty intense jet-lag. When I awoke, I found she has gone out to the local market and come back with the most beautiful strawberries just for me. There was a basket of them on the table and she had also sliced some up in a bowl, lightly coating them with sugar and heavy cream. I'm not sure if it was the gesture of kindness across language barriers, the quality of the strawberries, or the simple way they were prepared, but I've never tasted anything like it. Since then, I've always eaten strawberries this way, but with one modification. I use brown sugar instead of white, because I find it lends a more caramel-like flavour. I'll always enjoy fresh strawberries this way, and think nostalgically about the hospitality I received in a far-away arrondissement in Paris.
Another way I enjoy working with fresh strawberries is by incorporating them into baking. Many years ago I adapted what has become one of my favourite recipes from The Kitchen Paper. This cake recipe incorporates fresh fruit puree, swirled into the cake and into the icing. The nice thing about this recipe is it is quite versatile and lends itself to other kinds of fruits, so you can celebrate the season and/or feature whatever fresh fruit you have on hand. Peach would be delicious! Pineapple with a bit of rum in the glaze? Fresh cherry with the addition of some almond extract? You get the gist!
Fresh Fruit Swirl Pound Cake Yield: 2 x 8" loaf pans 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup butter, room temperature
2 ½ cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract (preferably vanilla bean paste)
1 cup sour cream
2 cups fresh strawberries (or other fresh fruit: peaches, other berries, mango, pitted cherries, pineapple, etc.)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1-2 cups powder sugar 1. Preheat the oven to 325°F and prepare two 8" loaf pans by spraying with cooking spray and then lining with parchment. 2. Using a food processor, blend the chosen fruit until smooth. Add the brown sugar. Set aside ¼ cup of the puree for the icing later. 3. Prepare the cake batter. Combine together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside. In a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Now add the eggs, one a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and sour cream. Mix until smooth. In two batches, add the bowl of dry ingredients into the mixer. Mix until just combined. 4. Fill each of the loaf pans halfway up with the batter. Then pour half of the remaining strawberry puree into each pan. Pour the rest of the cake batter on top. Gently swirl with a knife to create a marbled pattern. 5. Bake for 65-70 min, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Tent with foil if you find the top is browning too quickly. 6. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool. Meanwhile, mix the reserved fruit puree with the icing sugar until it forms the desired consistency for glazing the loaves. Once the cakes are cooled, top with the glaze. To my strawberry icing I added a bit of pink pitaya powder (find it here) to intensify the pink hue.