Every Memorial Day weekend of Karma Lee’s childhood involved a family trip to a pick-your-own strawberry patch.
Lee and her family would pick so many berries that the quarts would fill two levels inside the trunk of their Chevrolet. When they got home, her mother would freeze many of them. Lee would fill a wagon with quarts of strawberries and sell them for 25 cents each to the neighbors.
“I always loved strawberry picking,” Lee recalled.
Those childhood memories certainly left an impression.
Nineteen years ago, when she and her husband bought about 35 acres in Apex, she says he turned to her and said: “You are going to have to do something to pay for all this.”
Her husband, Jim, 57, was a nurse anesthetist, and Karma, 57, also a trained nurse, had been raising their three daughters. She looked at an open field where tobacco and then soybeans once grew and thought it would make a good place for a strawberry patch.
I get to meet so many nice people. They are all so happy when they get here and all so happy when they leave.
Farmer Karma Lee
That first year, they started with two acres and had much fruit but not many customers. Over the years, word of mouth has spread about the Lees’ Buckwheat Farm. Now they grow about 46,000 plants on about two acres. They also sell some produce, shiitake mushrooms and five flavors of ice cream – strawberry, blueberry, spiced pumpkin, baked sweet potato and jalapeno.
Now Lee loves running the strawberry patch: “I get to meet so many nice people. They are all so happy when they get here and all so happy when they leave.”
Pick strawberries before they are gone
Karma Lee of Buckwheat Farm in Apex expects the strawberry crop to continue until the first week of June; however, that may be hurt by the recent wet weather. If you want strawberries, get some this weekend.
Strawberry Yum Yum
From Karma Lee of Buckwheat Farm, Apex.
2 cups crushed graham crackers, about 1 sleeve
2 cups sugar, divided
1 stick butter, melted
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
1 (8-ounce) container Cool Whip
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons strawberry Jell-O mix
1 cup water
1 quart strawberries, sliced
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine graham crackers and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of a food processor; blitz until fine. Then add melted butter and process until well combined. Take half of the mixture and press into bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Bake for 5 minutes in the oven. Remove and cool thoroughly.
Place condensed milk and cream cheese in a large bowl or bowl of a standing mixer. Use beater to mix until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip. Set aside.
Combine cornstarch, Jell-O, 1 cup sugar and water in a saucepan; stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil. Let cool completely and add strawberries and stir.
Layer half the cream cheese mixture over graham cracker crust. Top with strawberry mixture. Add remaining half of cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with remaining graham cracker crumbs. Refrigerate overnight.
Yield: 12-15 servings.