The sad thing about local strawberries is that their season is all too brief. Really, it's only about a month or so, but local chefs really get into the season, making the most of it.
EXTRA COURSE: Strawberry tacos made with angel food cake
The past few weeks have been a blur for the Johnson family. That's because they're in the midst of one of the shortest growing seasons in the Midwest. But if you happen to drive by the Hobart, Indiana, farm, it's hard to miss their siren call. It is peak strawberry season, and they're busy in the fields, picking anything that's red.
"Early Glow is by far one of the best eating varieties. Some varieties are big and hollow. Some of them are white in the center. We're looking for a berry that's red all the way through," said Rodney Johnson.
This year, the farm is also a family-friendly attraction, with tons of activities for little kids. But for serious eaters, Johnson also planted a few other varieties, like Honeoye and Darselect, which have different properties.
"We're looking for something with good firmness but good flavor, good sugar," said Johnson.
The one thing they all have in common: interiors that are red throughout. You won't see any white cores here, like the ones you see in the grocery stores all year long. That means real strawberry flavor, bursting with natural sweetness. And they get put to good use in their on-site bakery, where the kitchen devises all sorts of ways to utilize their bounty: puree them into doughnut batter, fry them briefly, then coat in sugar and serve warm. Or, loaded into cupcakes, kolachkes and croissants. Layered in shortcakes and mounded over pancakes. The possibilities seem endless, especially when it doesn't take much to improve on their natural sweetness.
"I don't do much baking, I do mostly the eating, but they all taste good when you add sugar to them," Johnson said.
Even though this is the final weekend of the strawberry festival, the good news is next week we start talking about blueberries, then raspberries and then watermelon. So plenty of fruit for fruit fans.
Johnson's Farm Produce
8960 E. Ridge Rd.
Hobart, IN 46342