What two Iowa-grown foods are plentifully sprouting from our black earth this month? If you think it’s corn and beans, think again. Iowa’s rich land is tempting taste buds with some “berry” sweet treats. (Although, yes, corn and beans are flourishing right now, too.)
Biking and berries
Central Iowa’s High Trestle Trail has enjoyed much notoriety since it opened about five years ago, mostly for its crown jewel, the half-mile, 13-story-tall bridge that offers breathtaking views of the Des Moines River Valley below. If you’ve never walked, biked or run across it, you must. It’s something you’ll never forget.
My family bikes the High Trestle Trail a couple times a month, and I’d argue that our favorite memories aren’t made on the bridge but are instead captured on the straight-aways that cut between the wide open spaces of lush green farm fields and under the cool canopy of shade trees and foliage. My husband and I bike with our two young sons towed behind. We travel at a leisurely pace, stopping often to quietly watch a beaver meander back to his dam; to learn about the Wild Rose, Iowa’s state flower; or to pick, pull apart and reassemble what we call “snake grass.” (I’ve heard people refer to it as “puzzle grass,” too.) Short story: If something interests us, we stop and take a look.
On last weekend’s ride, it was wild, trail-side mulberries that caught my husband’s eye. We pulled over, moved our bikes safely off the trail and – not even taking time to remove our helmets or gloves – started exploring the bushes for the darkest, ripest, tastiest mulberries. Our boys delighted in the chore: “Get that one, Mom!”, or “There’s a really good one, Dad!”. They pointed and jumped and smiled in delight. We remembered how often we forget to teach our kids that food isn’t grown in the grocery store. With fingers slightly purple-tinged, we rode on, looking for our next adventure.
You pick, you eat
After a 20-some mile ride we headed for home, first stopping at Iowa Orchard’s you-pick strawberry farm conveniently located on Highway 141 between Grimes and Granger. A friendly woman at the entrance gave us a box and instructions: Fill the box and return it to be weighed. It won’t take you long, she said, the field is teeming with beautiful red berries, perfect for picking. And she was right. We carefully tip toed through the rows, spotting the perfect fruits and choosing them for our box. Twenty-three dollars and fifty cents later we drove off, brainstorming the concoctions we’d make up with our heaping mound of strawberries: jam, muffins, pie, bread. Just don’t forget to leave some for snacking.