Thursday, May 19, 2011

Banana Strawberry Bread

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

A few weeks ago, I traveled to southern Illinois. For most of the six-hour journey, our train chugged through open prairie. Golden rods layered the fields and, hawks dipped into sight, slicing the air with their broad, scalloped wings. I nodded in and out of sleep soon after we left Chicago. By the time the conductor announced "Effingham, Effingham, Illinois!" I could no longer sleep. I sat up and started scribbling a list of things I wanted to do during my brief visit. It began with picking strawberries.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

As a child, I spent summers catching army green frogs and stirring up concoctions with wild mint and water from the garden hose. At dusk, my friend Annette and I would track lightening bugs with empty glass jars, devising new navigational strategies when the sky turned black enough to see the stars.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

During summer vacation, Mrs. Barbay would take us strawberry picking. At the farm, we would hop on to a flatbed waiting in the parking lot and dangle our feet over the edge. Once all the U-pickers had boarded, the truck inched toward the berries, passing a barn, tractors, and, maybe, a few cows. Soon rows of strawberry plants appeared. We would hoist ourselves to the ground, cushioned by a light layering of hay, and spend the morning hovered over the plants, pulling back their leaves in search of the colorful, low-lying fruit.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)

When I left Chicago, the strawberry plants in the community garden had just unfurled their leaves. It would be several weeks before they grew delicate, daisy-like flowers and even longer before any fruit appeared. In the region of the Bible Belt where I grew up, the strawberry farms would be open for the first round of picking. All winter long, I had longed for the floral sweetness of June bearing strawberries. With a little luck, I would be able to enjoy a bowlful alongside a plate of fried Catfish and some sweet iced tea.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)


When I tracked down the list of fruits that contain the most pesticides, I learned that strawberries are part of the Dirty Dozen. So be sure to wash them thoroughly before you use them or buy organic strawberries. Do the same with lemons.

Also, try to use strawberries as soon as possible. If you need to store them for a day or two, lay them out in a single layer and refrigerate them. Be sure to throw out moldy berries to keep mold from spreading.


1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup strawberries, finely diced
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons plain nonfat yogurt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix together strawberries, bananas, lemon zest, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla.

Carefully mix banana-strawberry mixture into dry ingredients until flour just disappears. Do not over mix.

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.

Bake until bread is golden brown, about an hour. Cool for at least 15 minutes on wire rack.

Susan Pachikara (COPYRIGHT 2011)