Summer on a Stick

Farm to Freezer with Crooked Stick Pops

By Marykate Smith Despres
Photos by Dominic Perri

Julie Tuman loves heat and humidity. She grew up in the South, where summer stretched from March to November, eagerly awaiting the Memorial Day opening of the neighborhood swimming pool. The North Carolina native “got sucked into” the Pioneer Valley when she came north for graduate school 15 years ago and never left. But she brought a little bit of that long summer with her and turned it into Crooked Stick Pops.

Tuman started making and selling the frozen treats just last May, hawking handheld relief from the heat at farmers’ markets and community events around the Valley. At the end of each market, Tuman buys whatever fruits and veggies farmers can’t sell. “I just clear ’em out.”

In turn, she gets new ingredients to play with, and advice along the way. The folks from Crabapple Farm noticed her use of basil and turned her on to tulsi. Now, they grow a few rows of herbs just for her.

Those herbs and fruits are processed in the 800-square-foot commercial kitchen Tuman built in Easthampton’s Keystone building. Making 500 pops a day with 150 flavors “in solid rotation,” she spends three 12-hour days a week during peak season processing, freezing, and bagging “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pounds of beautiful local fruit.”

The other four days, April through October, Tuman is outside, selling from her cart or her pop trike, which can hold up to 800 pops. Crooked Stick Pops are “what you see is what you get,” with flavors like Cantaloupe Mint and Kiwi Ginger—names and complete ingredient lists in one.

Tuman likes savory pops, like Maple Pear and Vanilla Lemon Basil, best. (She lovingly refers to the latter as her “bourbon pop” because, at the end of a long day, “It has the same effect on my shoulders.”) She’s not attached to, or even particularly a fan of, sweet treats. “If it grows, I will try to throw it in a blender and put it on a stick.”

After just one year, Crooked Stick Pops is expanding. Tuman hired a few “pop slingers” so the treats can be offered in three places at once, including a new brick-and-mortar location in Eastworks, opening in June. The pop shop will be open year round as the flavors “get heavier and richer, moving from herbs to spices.” Tuman says people love fresh-from-the-freezer pops in winter to soothe sore throats and perk up a flu. And who among us hasn’t wished, in the bitter days of winter, for a bit of summer on a stick?

crookedstickpops.com

Last Bite: Quince

Last Bite: Quince

Confession time: Quince make us weak in the knees. These incredibly fragrant fruits (once upon a time, they were used as pomanders, perfuming many a linen closet) resemble apples, but their golden, russeted, occasionally fuzzy skins encase a fruit with a split personality. High in tannins, their raw flesh is bitter and astringent, but after a poaching in sugar or honey the flesh turns golden-pink and lusciously tender. 

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Go Wild! Web Extra: Wild Black Cherry

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Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)

Wild black cherries are part of the rose family. It’s tough to harvest enough to use for a recipe, because they are so delicious on their own!

Identification

Wild black cherry trees are often found near fields or other sunny areas. The trees can be more than 80 feet tall and 2 feet in diameter. The bark of the black cherry tree has small, white, horizontal stripes or spots on the bark (called lenticels). If you scrape away the bark on a leaf branch, it will smell like sweet almonds. The leaves of the wild black cherry are shiny, dark green, and ovate in shape. The underside of the leaves have small, fuzzy, rusty colored hairs on the mid vein. These hairs aren’t always visible, but if they are, it is a sure sign that the tree you have found is a wild black cherry. The berries themselves are a dark purple, black color and are about one centimeter in diameter. The berries grow in clusters on red stalks, and contain small pits. The berries are usually ripe in mid-late August.

Harvesting

If the berries are ripe, they will sometimes start to fall and you can gather the freshly fallen ones and place them in a bag or basket. You can also harvest the berries by shaking the branches, which will cause them to fall to the ground. If you can reach the berries, you can pick them by hand.

barkBenefits and Uses

Wild black cherries, like most berries, are high in vitamins and antioxidants and have a sweet and astringent flavor that is delicious. Brittany loves to eat the cherries on their own, but just be careful, as they do have pits. The berries also are wonderful in jams, sauces, and reductions. These preparations are great because the pits can be strained out. You can also make wild black cherry juice by macerating berries with water and sugar, honey, or lemon.

8 Ways to Eat Your Strawberries

Strawberry season is upon us!

Juicy red jewels are popping up at farmstands across the Valley and U-Pick fields are opening every day. While nothing shouts "Summer!" more than fresh berries eaten out of hand, here are some recipes guaranteed to show off a basket of fresh berries. 

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Strawberry Mostarda

Traditional mostarda is a zesty condiment of fruit preserved in mustard oil. This is an easier adaption of the traditional recipe using fresh berries. 

Strawberry Salad Idaho South

Strawberry Salad

Strawberries, pine nuts and crisp cucumbers, all tossed with balsamic vinaigrette. Edible Idaho South brings us the recipe. 

Picture from Edible Ohio Valley

Three Strawberry Salad Dressings

Three recipes in one post! Thank you Edible Ohio Valley for three way to use fresh berries to garnish your salads, serve over grilled chicken or fish, and use as a vegetable dip. 

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Strawberry-Basil Cocktail

This charming cocktail from Maggie Battista makes a spirited start to any gathering.

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Fresh Strawberry Cake

Adapted from a Smitten Kitchen recipe, this cake is easily made ahead and can be made both vegan and gluten-free!

 

Strawberry Granita

From our friends at Edible Boston, this granita recipe makes a bright red, icy cooler for a hot summer day. No special equipment needed!

Picture from Edible DC 

Strawberry Tequila Sorbetto

Prefer your ice cream with a kick? Edible DC has you covered.

 

Strawberry-Basil Compote over Vanilla Ice Cream

This compote is a fresh topper for ice cream. If you prefer, enjoy it over yogurt and start your morning with bowlful of berries.