Susan Vaughan here, not dying yet. Maybe I wouldn’t literally die for strawberry pie, but eating the delicious fruit whether au naturel or in a pie is “to die for.” Those of you in some states south of Maine already are enjoying strawberry season, but here strawberry season hasn’t quite arrived and is fairly short. Local berries freshly picked are sweeter and juicier than the ones from the supermarket, ones that come from far away.
Whenever I eat a berry like strawberries or blueberries, I often wonder about the reaction of the first humans to taste them. Ancient peoples must have sampled all kinds of wild plants that either tasted horrible or made them sick. Imagine the euphoria of biting into a juicy berry like the strawberry. Did they wait awhile to see if it made them sick? Or did they have tasters who could be sacrificed in the search for new edibles? Yeah, nasty, brutish, and short lives of ancient peoples.
A little research, and I found that strawberries were recorded as growing wild in Italy as far back as 234 B.C. The strawberry was a symbol for Venus, the Roman goddess of love, because of its heart shape and red color. In Othello, Shakespeare decorated Desdemona’s handkerchief with symbolic strawberries. About the strawberry, William Butler (ca 1600) said, “Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.”
And early European settlers in Massachusetts ate strawberries cultivated by local Native Americans, who’d cultivated the berry as early as 1643. Crushed berries were mixed with cornmeal and baked into strawberry bread. Colonists then developed their own version and created strawberry shortcake!
In honor of the strawberry, I’m sharing my strawberry pie recipe. It’s easy and foolproof. Oh, and to die for. Enjoy.
1 quart strawberries, washed, drained, and hulled, pre-baked and cooled pie shell, 1 cup sugar, 3 tbsp cornstarch, Pinch salt, Water
Cover the cooked pie shell with the choicest berries. Mash 1/2 to 1 cup of the remaining berries. Add enough water to make 1 1/2 cups. Mix sugar, salt, and cornstarch together. In saucepan, bring juice mixture to boiling. Gradually stir in sugar mixture and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until boiling. Add drop of red food coloring if desired. Only a drop. Too much red and it looks artificial. Boil one minute. Cool. Pour over berries in the pie shell. Chill about two hours. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.
You can use peaches or other berries or a mix of berries.
If anyone has interesting facts or lore about strawberries, please share!