Springing into Strawberry Season at Kiawah River

Whether they’re a sweetly sliced addition to your salads, a fruity flavor for your ice cream or a simple afternoon treat plucked straight from the stem, nothing tops the taste of ripe, fresh strawberries on a sunny day. The berry is among the first fruits to ripen in spring and early summer, with the season’s peak beginning in April and lasting through June. And as the fruit’s season kicks off, the Lowcountry’s farmers markets and produce farms, like the one at Kiawah River, are hulling the sweet, ripe berries by the buckets.

Because of its close proximately to the Atlantic Ocean, Kiawah River’s mild and warm climate is ideal for growing plump and juicy berries. After a short scenic drive from historic downtown Charleston, you’ll want to roll down your windows to feel the warmth of spring and smell the sweet strawberries growing on site at Kiawah River’s working farm. Owned and operated by the Freeman family’s fourth generation of farmers, the 100-acre farm grows fresh, local ingredients with an array of seasonal crops, including melons, squashes, butter beans, tomatoes, bell peppers and, of course, strawberries.

For those with an extra-sweet tooth, strawberry season in the Lowcountry typically coincides with peak honey harvesting season for Kiawah River’s six beehives. Local honey drizzled over sun-ripened strawberries makes for the perfect tropical treat for your next trip to one of the Charleston area’s five nearby beaches.

We usually spend the season eating the delicious fruit straight from the stem, and while we fully intend to keep that tradition alive, strawberries can also be a sweet addition to your everyday dishes. Once you have your fresh berries, try your hand at Charleston native and New Orleans pastry chef Kelly Fields’ strawberries and dumplings dish, as featured in Garden & Gun.

Strawberries & Dumplings

First, gather your ingredients. Then, rinse, hull and cut your strawberries in half and set them aside.

For the filling:

– Split the vanilla bean and remove the seeds. Place the seeds, lemon zest and sugar in a large bowl and rub together with your fingers to break up any clumps.

– Add the strawberries, butter and liqueur to the bowl and toss. Set aside for one hour.

For the topping:

– Grate the butter into a bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

– Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

– Whisk together the flour, baking powder and one tablespoon of sugar in a large bowl. Then, add the butter and cup of buttermilk and toss the mixture with your hands until the dough forms.

– Roll the dough into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Fold one long edge to the middle and fold the other side on top.

– Flip the dough over and roll again, repeating the fold. Flip and roll the dough again into a 10-inch square. Cut as many rounds as possible using a biscuit cutter. (Continue rerolling the scraps until you’ve used all of the dough.)

– Pour the strawberries and their juice into a cast-iron skillet and place the biscuits on top. Then, brush the biscuits with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar.

– Bake until the tops are golden brown, and the juice is bubbling (about 30-40 minutes).

– Top each serving with a dollop of white chocolate whipped cream.

For the White Chocolate Whipped Cream:

– Bloom gelatin in 1 cup of cold water until soft (about 10 minutes).

– Split the vanilla bean and remove the seeds. Mix and scald the heavy cream and vanilla in a saucepan over medium-high. While the cream is still hot, add the gelatin.

– Mix the cream and chocolate until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.

– Cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate overnight.

– When ready to serve, whip until soft peaks form.