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FORT LAWN – In 1996, third-generation farmers David and Jimmy Jordan were looking for a crop that could be watered and didn’t require very much rain.
Their options were limited, given their location just north of Fort Lawn on S.C. 21. That was something the Jordan boys learned young, while watching their grandfather try to scratch out a cotton crop on the same ground.
“We’d sit on the porch and watch thunderstorms come through and go around this place every single time, making our granddaddy so mad he could spit,” David Jordan said.
But where cotton wouldn’t thrive, strawberries will. Theirs is a gamble that paid off.
“The thing that seems to help us the most is where we are,” Jordan said. “Right down through here is about a 3-and-a-half-mile dry stretch, where we just don’t get the rain others around get. The strawberries seem to like it.”
That really paid off when a hailstorm struck this part of the Carolinas on April 9. It bypassed the Jordans’ strawberries, peaches and blackberries.
A colder-than-normal winter didn’t affect the crop either.
“I think it helped us out,” he said. “I’ve really not seen strawberries with weather this cold, but early on, we had some of the best strawberries we’ve ever had.”
That taste is something that Matthew Sistare can vouch for. Sistare recently brought his three children, Holden, Mattie and Riley, to the pick-your-own strawberry patch.
“I had to take their clothes off when we got back to the truck,” he said, laughing. “They were covered in strawberry juice.”
The only difference in this year’s crop is the yield. The Jordans normally plant about 3.5 acres of strawberries, but planted fewer this year.
“We’re a little slow, but we’re thankful for what we’ve got,” Jordan said. “With all of us having to deal with $3.70 a gallon gas, there’s just not enough (money) to go around.
“It’s just gotten to the point you can buy gasoline, food and medicine,” he said. “Something’s gotta go.”
However, that didn’t stop sisters Janie Phillips and Joyce Knight from making a recent trip from Midway to Jordan Farms. The strawberries in the punch bowl cake at Liberty Freewill Baptist Church’s homecoming on Sunday were picked fresh May 10 at Jordan Farms.
Knight said the ride was worth it.
“These are the best strawberries around,” Knight said.
“It’s a pretty good piece off, but we try to support the Jordans' business. They are good people,” Phillips said.
When the Jordans started growing strawberries 15 years ago, David Jordan said they never imagined friendships could blossom amid rows of ripe, red fruit.
“At the time, there were a lot of retirees who would come in and pick 10 to 15 gallons at a time,” Jordan said. “Some of them have passed on, but the younger folks who come here started out with those grandmas and grandpas.
“We never expected to become as good friends with our customers as we have,” Jordan said. “We never saw that part coming.”
Not only are fresh strawberries good, they are also good for you.
Dr. Barry Sears, author of “The Top 100 Zone Foods,” considers strawberries “a superstar when it comes to antioxidant power.”
One cup of strawberries offers 140 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C. They are also loaded with the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol, which help keep LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) in check.
Strawberries also contain ellargic acid, which binds to cancer-causing chemicals, rendering them inactive, Sears said. Blackberries, cherries, cranberries, grapes, raspberries, Brazil nuts, pecans and walnuts also contain ellargic acid, which inhibits the ability of other chemicals to mutate the bacteria that become cancers, Sears said in the book.
Strawberries are also loaded with calcium, phosphorus and potassium.
The antioxidant power of strawberries doesn’t end there.
In April, an Ohio State research team presented a preliminary study to the American Association of Cancer Research that a diet that contains freeze-dried strawberries has the potential to prevent esophageal cancer.
Jordan’s biggest concern until last Saturday’s rains was the cicadas that are making a racket in the area. He hopes this year’s strawberry crops lasts about two more weeks.
“I just hope they (cicadas) don’t like strawberries,” he said, laughing.
Cooking with strawberries
– Strawberries have their best flavor the day after they are picked. They won’t ripen after being picked.
– All berries should be firm and their color bright. If there is no plastic wrap on the container when you buy them, place plastic on top of it when you get home.
– Berries should be refrigerated and never allowed to dry out.
– Berries should be used within two to three days after they are bought to assure the best taste and nutritional value.
– Mold on berries tends to spread quickly, so you never want to leave a moldy one next to a good one. This goes for all fruits.
– Don’t hull strawberries until after they are washed or they will absorb too much water and become mushy.
– Berries can be defrosted by placing them in a plastic bag and immersing them in cold water for about 12 minutes.
– If you are making a dish with berries, make sure the batter’s consistency is thick enough to suspend them. Berries placed in thin batters just sink to the bottom.
– Strawberries can be easily sweetened by sprinkling powdered sugar on them and letting them stand for a short while. When the sugar is placed on the surface of the berries, it mixes with the berries’ natural moisture to produce a liquid that’s a little denser than the liquid inside the berries. Osmosis then allows the less dense liquid to flow toward the denser liquid, placing the sugar inside the strawberry.
– From “20,001 Food Facts, Chefs Secrets & Household Hints” by Dr. Myles. H. Bader
Lemon Strawberry Cheesecake
2 cups graham crackers
6 tablespoons butter
2 pounds cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest, grated
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup currant jelly
2 tablespoons water
3 pints fresh strawberries
– Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Crush graham crackers. Melt butter. Then mix butter and crackers together with a spoon. Press into bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan. Bake 5 minutes and remove.
– Place cream cheese in a blender and blend on low until smooth. Keep blending at low speed and add one after another: eggs, sugar, lemon zest (grated) and vanilla. Blend until the whole mixture is fluffy.
– Pour into crust in the springform pan and bake about 1 hour or until center is set. Let cool down and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
– Combine 2 tablespoons sugar, currant jelly and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 3 minutes. Let cool down.
– Remove sides of cake pan and place on serving plate. Arrange strawberries in an even layer, cut-side down, over top of cake. Dab the strawberries with glaze and refrigerate for about 3 hours.
– Recipe from Strawberry-Recipes.com
Frozen Strawberry Swirl Angel Pie
1 cup sliced strawberries
3 cups no-sugar-added fat-free vanilla ice cream, softened
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated sugar
For an optional garnish, add fresh whole strawberries
– Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Coat a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray and set aside.
– Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a medium bowl and beat at medium speed until foamy. Beat in the vanilla extract. Gradually add the sugar and beat at high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread into the prepared pie plate. Bake 60 to 75 minutes or until the meringue is dry. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.
– Place strawberries in a food processor and process until pureed. Place the ice cream in a large bowl, stirring until smooth. Add the strawberry puree and gently swirl together without mixing completely. Spoon into the cooled meringue crust. Cover and freeze overnight. Let stand at room temperature 10 minutes before slicing. Garnish with fresh strawberries, if desired.
– Recipe from American Diabetes Association