Today I went to the farmers’ market, tempted by the end of summer tomatoes, peppers, squash, berries, and grapes that hit northern California in abundance in early October. While a few vendors sold baskets of strawberries, this one organic farm had the small, vine-ripened strawberries at the peak of ripeness.
These small, perfectly red in the center berries vividly usher forth memories of berry harvesting with my grandma, Ginny Myers, and the fruit crumbles she would make. Whenever my sister and I would visit our grandparents on that verdant Pennsylvania hillside, they would send us to harvest the strawberries as part of our morning routine.
Grandma gave me my first lesson in ripeness. She sat us down early one summer morning on the grass near the strawberry ‘hill,’ she and grandpa had planted several years earlier. The dew rose into the chill air infecting it with sweetness, and the songs of bluebirds amplified and receded as the birds moved from peach tree to grape vines hugging the wooden fence. She held a berry with her garden-worn fingers and bit into it, turned the inside out to face us. With her lips slightly red from the berry, Grandma looked from us to the berry whose crimson heart glistened in the humid light: “This is ripeness: the berry has to be red throughout its heart. Those supermarket berries get picked too early and don’t taste good—the white center is how you tell the berry isn’t ripe. Go for this!”
For this recipe you want those red-hearted berries packed with a dance of acidic sweetness. Handle gently and cook with them as soon as you get home from the market. The other ingredients can easily be purchased online or at the local co-op or health food store. While this crumble is astonishingly easy and fast to make, the coconut’s warm nutty-spice creates a complex contrast to the berries’ bright savor. Enjoy the crumble with a dollop of sweetened coconut cream.
2 cups of fresh strawberries
½ cup coconut flour
¼ cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon organic sugar
2 tablespoon vegan butter
pinch of sea salt
4 tablespoons coconut cream, whipped
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Submerge the berries in a bowl filled with cool water, then gently spread them on an unbleached paper towel or clean kitchen towel.
3. Cut the large berries in ½ and ¼ the very large berries (the smaller, sweetest berries, just leave whole).
4. Place the berries in a thick layer on a medium-small glass or ceramic baking dish.
5. Make the topping: mix the coconut flour, sugar, and shredded coconut together, and add in the vanilla extract and pinch of sea salt. With a spatula or fork, fold and mix in the vegan butter until you have a rough paste.
6. Evenly distribute the topping over the berries, and place the dish in the oven.
7. Bake the mixture for about 18-20 minutes. The topping will turn a golden brown color and the berries will soften slightly in the oven.
8. Remove the dish from the heat and let it cool for about 20-30 minutes.
9. Divide the crumble into four even portions.
10. Spoon a dollop of sweetened coconut cream on the top, and serve.