Strawberries are coming to town

Last updated: May 13. 2014 4:14PM - 1854 Views
By Lucie R. Willsie lwillsie@civitasmedia.com

STRAWBERRY PIE (Sonker, really) by Frances Cave, the matriarch of the Cave family that owns and runs Cave's Strawberries farm
STRAWBERRY PIE (Sonker, really) by Frances Cave, the matriarch of the Cave family that owns and runs Cave's Strawberries farm
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Cave’s Strawberries in Dobson is known all around the region among people looking for pick-your-own farms. For many of those customers, the farm and the Cave family have become almost like an extended family, with spring-time trips anticipated as much for renewing those friendships as for picking the fresh, sweet strawberries.

Owner Frances Cave gave an example of one elderly couple from Kentucky that came to pick strawberries at Cave’s Strawberries every year for a decade before the husband died.

The wife continued to come to Dobson to pick the berries, with her son driving her every year, for about the next 10 years, she continued. Now, the wife also has died, but their son continues to visit, not just picking berries, but taking photos of Frances Cave and her large, close-knit family every year as well.

He’s now part of Cave’s family

Many customers of Cave’s Strawberries and Frances have similar experiences, visiting the strawberry farm regularly every year.

This year, the time is almost here again.

May 19 is the day, Frances Cave is guessing.

It depends largely on the weather and how cool the temperature gets at night.

“Things don’t grow as fast then,” she said.

Or maybe May 20, like last year.

Could be a day or two earlier, however.

That’s when local North Carolina strawberries should be ready to harvest.

But that’s exactly the time when Frances Cave, the matriarch of the Cave family that runs and operates Cave’s Strawberries, can’t use them.

That’s because as soon as the strawberries are ripe enough to pick, she is deluged with phone calls from folks ordering bushels of strawberries, or, who want to came out to the farm to pick their own strawberries.

“The trouble with me making any strawberry dishes during strawberry time,” she said, somewhat forlorn, “is I have no time … Customers have already started calling.”

When the strawberries are ready to be picked, it gets even busier for her.

“I work from really early in the morning, come in the house to eat, and go back out again ‘til evening,” she said.

One of her great-grandchildren, Keaton Holder, 9, will see his great-grandma out in the strawberry patch when his bus drives past her home.

“I want to get out of the bus and help her,” he said. As soon as he gets out of school, he heads over to his great-grandma and helps as much as he can after school.

The strawberry farm was started back in the 1950s by Frances Cave’s mother-in-law, Della Cave, and Frances’ husband, James Cave, grew the operation into a fulltime business. He died 13 years ago, but the family strawberry farm has continued. Now, Frances Cave’s son, Rickey, and his wife, Tamela, take a large brunt of the responsibility for overseeing the business. However, everyone in the family pitches in with chores, upkeep, and whatever else needs doing.

According to the North Carolina Strawberry Association, North Carolina ranks third in the United States in strawberry production, based on value of the crop harvested. Roughly 1,600 acres were used in 2012, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, with an annual production of 20.3 million pounds, and a value of $29.4 million.

One of the factors that distinguishes North Carolina from other strawberry-growing states is that almost all of the fruit produced in this state is sold at fresh markets within the state directly to consumers. The top two states, California and Florida, primarily grow for shipping. Oregon, which leads North Carolina in total production but not in value of the crop, grows primarily for processing.

Strawberry harvest usually starts in the southeastern Coastal Plain in early April, in the Piedmont in mid- to late-April, and in the western part of the state in early May. Depending on weather, most farms pick for 5 to 8 weeks. Cool spring weather prolongs the season, while hot weather, especially in May, shuts it down. May is considered the main season and is Strawberry Month in North Carolina.

So, it’s time for us all to enjoy.






2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1-1/2 cups of ricotta cheese

1/4 cup of granulated sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract


1 cup of flour

1 cup of milk

3 eggs

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 Tablespoons of sugar

Sugared Almonds

1 cup of slivered almonds

1/4 cup of maple syrup

2 Tablespoon of butter


Whipped cream or Cool Whip

Sliced strawberries


Sugared almonds: place all of the ingredients in a non-stick frying pan and cook on medium heat until the syrup becomes thick and the bubbles get larger. Place the almond mixture on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and bake in a 200-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 45 minutes. Let cool and break into pieces. Filling: Combine all ingredients and set aside while you make the crepe batter and the crepes. Crepes: put all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Heat an 8-inch, non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Pour a scant 1/4 cup batter in the pan and rotate the pan to evenly coat bottom. When you start to see brown around edges, turn over to finish cooking. Stack on a plate, placing a piece of waxed paper between each completed crepe. Makes about 12 crepes. To combine: Place a crepe on plate, place about 1/3 cup of strawberry mixture on it, and roll up, leaving ends open. Repeat until you have filled all crepes. Topping: Place a spoonful of whipped cream or Cool Whip on top of each crepe and sprinkle with sugared almond slivers. Place a slice of strawberry on top.



Matriarch of the family-owned Cave’s Strawberries


2 cups of crushed strawberries

3 to 4 cups of sugar, depending on taste

3/4 cup of water

Sure Gel or pectin


Mix ingredients together well. Let mixture sit for 15 to 30 minutes, stirring every now and then. Mix the Sure Gel or pectin with the water. Let it boil for a minute or two. Mix all ingredients together. Put into a jar or into little cups and let sit overnight or at least for 12 hours. Then, put the containers into a freezer. (Chef’s note: Don’t fill the jars or cups to the top. Leave a little room. I use plastic containers.)



Reporter at the “Mount Airy News”


3 cups of fresh strawberries

3/4 cups of sugar

1 box of vanilla wafers

2 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup of Cool Whip

1/2 box of powdered sugar

Pecans, as desired


First, slice 3 cups of fresh strawberries. Cover with 3/4 cups of sugar and let sit 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. For the first layer, crumble one box of vanilla wafers for the crust in a 9”x 13” dish. For the second layer, mix the cream cheese, Cool Whip and powdered sugar together. (Chef’s note: This mixture will be hard to spread, so use a spoon, spooning it over the crust. Then, spread with a spatula.) For the third layer, spread the previously prepared strawberries and sugar mixture. For the fourth layer, spread the Cool Whip over these strawberries. (Chef’s note: Use a little larger container for this step.) For the fifth layer, sprinkle the pecans over the top and refrigerator for at least one hour.



Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Education

at North Carolina Cooperation Extension, Surry County Center


1 angel food cake

1 small package of instant sugar-free vanilla pudding

1 cup of plain non-fat yogurt

2 cups of fresh strawberries

3 cups of non-fat milk


Tear the cake into bite-size pieces and place in an oblong baking dish. Mix together the pudding, yogurt, and milk until smooth. Pour on top of the cake and top if with strawberries. Chill and serve. Makes 12 servings.




1 pint of fresh strawberries, diced

4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 small onion, diced

1 small jalapeno pepper, minced

2 Tablespoons of lime or lemon juice

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon of olive oil


In a bowl, combine the strawberries, tomatoes, onion, and pepper. Stir in the lime juice, garlic, and oil. Cover and chill for 2 hours. Serve with cooked poultry or pork or as a dip with chips. Yield: 4 cups.



Matriarch of the family-owned Cave’s Strawberries


1 quart or more of strawberries, preferably fresh, sweeten to taste

1 1/2 cups of self-rising flour

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1 1/2 cups of full milk

1 1/2 sticks of margarine


Use a 9-inch-x-13-inch pan. (Chef’s note: It’s simple to make.) Mix the first three ingredients together well. Melt the margarine in the pan. Pour the batter over the margarine melted in the pan. The margarine will encircle the batter. Put the strawberries over the batter. The strawberries and their juices will go throughout the batter. Bake at 375-degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes or until the batter gets to be golden brown.




2 cups of fresh strawberries

1 1/2 cups of sugar

2 1/4 cups of cake flour, sifted

2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup of margarine or butter

1 cup of milk

1 teaspoon of vanilla

4 egg whites

1 1/2 cups of whipping cream


Preheat the oven to 375-degrees Fahrenheit. Stem and slice the strawberries and mix with 1/4 cup of sugar. Refrigerate. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan and a 9-inch diameter tube pan. Line the pans with waxed paper. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt. Cream 1 1/4 cups of sugar and the margarine (or butter) until fluffy. Combine the the milk and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients to the margarine mixture in thirds, alternating with liquids, and stir until smooth after each addition. Whip the eggs until stiff but not dry, and fold into batter. Fill the pans 2/3 full, and bake at 375-degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes, then completely cool on racks. Enlarge the center of tube layer to approximately 4 inches. Place the solid layer on a serving plate or tray. Spread 1 cup of the sliced berries on the solid layer. Top with the tube layer and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Before serving, whip the cream. Add 1/4 cup of sugar and whip until very stiff. Fill the center of the cake with strawberries. Shape into a mound as high as possible. Frost the cake with the cream mixture. Decorate with candles and strawberries. Yield: 8-10 servings.


Low-carb and gluten-free and

Can be made in the microwave


Reporter at the “Mount Airy News”


Yields either four small cupcakes or two mug cakes


2 Tablespoons of butter

2 Tablespoons of a granulated sugar substitute, such as Splenda

1/4 cup of almond flour

1 Tablespoon of coconut flour

1 egg

1/4 cup of pureed strawberries

1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Small pinch of salt

For the strawberry whipped cream

1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream

2 Tablespoons of pureed strawberries

1 Tablespoon of granulated sugar substitute, such as Splenda


Melt the butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the rest of the cake ingredients and stir to combine. For the cupcakes: Divide the batter into four small silicone cups or paper baking cups. Microwave all four on a plate for 1 minute. Test with a toothpick and if still not done, microwave for an additional 30 seconds. For mugs: Divide the batter into two coffee mugs. Microwave for 90 seconds. Test with a toothpick or fork and, if still not done, add just a few seconds. Do not overcook. For the strawberry cream: In a medium bowl, whip the heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Combine the strawberry puree and the sweetener. Fold the strawberry mixture gently into the whipped cream. Spoon onto cupcakes or mug cakes. (Chef’s note: Organic heavy whipping cream contains less carbs. Also, use a piping bag for the whipped topping to make it more fancy and garnish with strawberry slice or edible flowers.)

Nutritional information: 1 cupcake with cream contains 182 calories, 17 grams of fat, 2.25 grams net carbs, 3 grams protein. The mug cake with cream contains 303 calories, 28 grams of fat, 4.25 net carbs, 6 grams of protein




1 (12-ounce) carton of Cool Whip (12 oz.)

1 1/2 pints of strawberries, sliced

1/2 cup of sugar

1 small package of strawberry Jello

1 large package of instant vanilla pudding

3 cups of milk

1 cup of sour cream

1 box of vanilla wafers


Mix the strawberries, sugar, and Jello over low heat until the Jello is dissolved. Cool until the mixture thickens. Mix the pudding with the milk. Beat 2 minutes on low. Blend in the Cool Whip and the sour cream. Layer with the water, pudding, and strawberries. For multiple layers, use a trifle bowl, or, to layer once, use an oblong Pyrex dish.



Extension Agent, Family and Consumer Education

at North Carolina Cooperation Extension, Surry County Center


¾ cup of sugar

2 ½ Tablespoons of cornstarch

1 ½ cups of water

1 (3-ounce) package pf strawberry Jello

1 quart of fresh strawberries


Stir together the sugar and cornstarch in a sauce pan. Combine this mixture with water and bring to a boil. Add the Jello and stir until dissolved. Cool. Mix in 1 quart of freshly sliced strawberries, and put into a baked pie shell.




1 pint of fresh strawberries

4 cups of cold tea

1/3 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of lemon juice

Ice cubes


Set aside several strawberries for garnish. Puree the rest in a blender. Strain into a pitcher. Stir in tea, sugar, and lemon juice until the sugar dissolves. Chill. Serve over ice. Garnish with strawberries.

Lucie R. Willsie can be reached at 336-719-1930 or on Twitter at LucieR.Willsie

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