Locavores Savor Freshness

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Talk about an early start. Joe Beaudoin, owner of Joe’s Place Farms in Vancouver, planted his first garden when he was just a 4-year-old sprout. By high school, his green thumb had him deep in strawberries, which he tended and sold at his own roadside stand.

The 71-year-old Beaudoin, with big, rugged hands, remembers those early days with a grin.

“I used to borrow the neighbor’s horses” to work fields, Beaudoin said.

Fast-forward to today, and the heart of strawberry season, and Beaudoin, father of seven and grandfather of 12, manages his 80 acres of clustered urban farmland, where he grows apples, peaches, pumpkins, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, pumpkins, eggplant, peppers, green beans and more.

Much of Beaudoin’s produce makes its way to area farmers markets. But about 35 percent of his crop is you-pick, where industrious foodies harvest straight from vines, trees and plants, pay by the pound, and head home to make a farm-fresh meal.

Farmers like Beaudoin are a staple for the locavore food movement, which emphasizes eating food that’s grown or processed within 100 miles.

At its heart, the locavore movement is an effort to reduce the carbon footprint of our food by reducing the miles it travels to our tables, to increase food safety by getting to know the farmers who grow and raise the food and to support and stimulate the local economy by building relationships with local farmers.

But beyond the environmental and economics of locally grown food is the taste.

“There’s a different flavor and characteristic when you get fresh produce,” said Jordon Boldt, executive director of the Vancouver Farmers Market. “Anyone who wants to do a side-by-side comparison (with grocery store fruit and vegetables) will notice a huge taste difference.”

With our late spring start, July still has the Vancouver area flush with strawberries, something Beaudoin expects to continue all month. Meanwhile, the 40 farmers at the Vancouver Farmers Market are also gearing up for Yakima cherries, blueberries and raspberries later this month.

Many farmers at area markets offer up recipes to go along with their fresh-from-the-field produce. With strawberries available aplenty, Beaudoin shared a few favorite recipes that use the berry:

Fresh Strawberry Butter

1/2 cup of fresh strawberries, stemmed and cleaned

1 cup of unsalted butter, about 2 sticks

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

In a food processor, combine strawberries, butter, and powdered sugar. Blend until the mixture is pale pink. Spread over toast or bagels. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freeze.

Strawberry Iced Tea Fizz

1 pint of fresh strawberries, cleaned, stemmed and sliced

1/2 cup of sugar

5 cups of boiling water

1 tea bag

1 12-ounce can of froze lemonade concentrate, thawed

1 quart club soda, chilled

In a large bowl combine sliced strawberries and sugar. Set aside.

In a large bowl, pour boiling water over tea bag. Cool to room temperature. Stir in strawberries and lemonade concentrate. Chill. Stir in club soda just before serving. Pour over ice and serve with spoons for those strawberries. Makes 12 servings.

Irresistible Strawberry Pie

1 9-inch pie shell, baked

3/4 cup of sugar

1/2 cup of flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 cups milk

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 pint fresh strawberries, cleaned and stemmed

1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries (thawed, if using frozen)

1 cup whipping cream

1 1/2 tablespoon powdered sugar

Cook pie shell according to instructions. Set aside. In a 3-quart saucepan, combine sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in milk until smooth. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until thickened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir egg yolks into the milk mixture. Cook and stir for 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Cool for 20 minutes.

Add berries to the cooled pie shell. Pour cooled glaze over the berries. Chill for several hours. Whip cream with powdered sugar just before serving and finish slices with a dollop.