You Little Tart!!

Lately I’ve been into making fruit tarts with our fruit harvest. The latest are these little strawberry-rhubarb tarts. The strawberries are over so I had to buy them but the rhubarb is kicking it and I’m looking for different ways to use it. A fiend of mine, Kathleen, asked for the tart recipe so here is the basic recipe for making tarts (from Julia Childs and Jacques Pepin) I like the tart pastry from Jacques Pepin better as I thought it was flakier than Julia’s so I put it in for the pastry. Get a tart pan if you don’t have one. I have both a big tart pan and little tart pans for individual servings.

 TART PASTRY (Jacques Pepin)

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour

1 1/3 sticks unsalted butter (5 1/3 oz)

3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1 egg yolk

1-2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, butter and sugar and mix till butter is crumbly like the size of peas using a pastry blender or food processor.  Don’t overblend. You don’t want it completely smooth as the butter pieces gives it it’s flakiness. In a small bowl, mix together egg yolk and water and add to flour mixture. Knead lightly until dough is smooth-do not over knead or dough will be tough. Form it into a ball and put in plastic wrap and refrigerate it if not ready to make. Then when ready, put it between 2 pieces of plastic wrap and roll out till about 14 inches round. Peel off one side of the wrap and put in tart pan and then peel off the other side of the plastic wrap. Then I roll my rolling pin over the edges to cut off the dough. Prick bottom and sides with a fork and put in oven. Cook from 15-20+ minutes till lightly brown. Your oven may be different so check it a lot. The recipe originally said 30 minutes but that is way too long at this altitude. If the edges get browner before the center, put some foil over the edges to keep from burning. This can be done up to 12 hours ahead. Leave out-no need to refrigerate.

CRÈME PATISSIERE (Julia Child) This filling makes a lot so you may want to cut it in half or even into fourths because you want a thin amount of filling to put the fruit on. I had a ton left over making the full recipe.

6 egg yolks

heavy saucepan

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 cups hot milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 tablespoon brandy

Separate egg yolks and blend with a wire whip in a heavy saucepan (cooks more evenly). Gradually beat in sugar until it is smooth. Add flour and whip in. GRADUALLY add hot milk stirring with the wire whip until smooth. Continue stirring CONSTANTLY with the whip till mixture is thick. As it turns lumpy whip harder till lumps are out.  Lower heat and cook a few more minutes till thickened stirring CONSTANTLY. Have I said that word enough-‘constantly’? Remove from heat and stir in butter and flavoring. Put plastic wrap right on top to keep it from getting thicker at the top and refrigerate. Leftover mixture can also be frozen for later use.


Several hours before serving, put a thin layer of filling on bottom of pastry. The fruit is the main star in this recipe not the filling. Put fresh fruit like apricots, berries, kiwi or strawberries neatly on top of filling. Make a glaze using apricot or currant jam. Heat up the jam and add a few drops of warm water till it is the consistency of a glaze-spoon warm glaze over fruit).

In this picture I cooked the rhubarb with lots of sugar (to taste) in saucepan and then added some cornstarch as a thickening agent. Mix about 1 tablespoon cornstarch first with a little cold water so it won’t lump up and stir in and heat till thick.  You could do this with any fruit (take some of the fruit, add sugar then cook down and add cornstarch) if you want to make a glaze instead of buying jam.


One of my fellow gardeners in the Las Vegas, NM area, Gene, asked me about strawberries and I thought what a good post it would make.

TYPES: Strawberries come in three types: June Bearing, Day Neutral and Everbearing.

June bearing strawberries: The most traditional berry that produces a single crop in early spring or June and are largest in size of the 3 types.  They produce for a 2-3 week period. It is the type I have. I got them from a friend who was thinning out her strawberry bed and I planted them 3 years ago so I’m not sure what variety but for sure they are June bearing type cause that’s when I harvest. Give them room cause they will take over areas. I’ve already let it spread out twice but I love strawberries so I don’t care. This winter I got hit hard with the extreme cold temperatures and lots about half but I’m sure they’ll come back.

Day Neutral strawberries: They produce continuously throughout the summer. They have smaller berries and fewer runners. These would be good for limited space.

Everbearing strawberries: Produce 2-3 crops per year-one in June, then late summer and again in fall. They also have smaller berries and fewer runners. These would also be good for limited space.

VARIETIES: You’ll have to do some research to learn more about these varieties listed here:

  • Early – Earlidawn, Catskill, Raritan
  • Midseason – Surecrop, Redcheif, Midway
  • Late – Guardian, Fletcher, Sparkle

PLANTING: With all strawberries, they like a soil with lots of compost so be sure to heavily amend your soil before planting the plants. Plant in full sun. Dig a hole that will accommodate the roots in the soil but be sure to keep the crown at or just above the ground level-otherwise it may rot. Plant about 18″ apart. Don’t worry if that seems like a lot of space, each plant will put out runners and baby plants from the runners and soon it will fill in.

Pick off any flowers the first year so the plant can put it’s energy into growing instead of making fruit.

Harvest the second and third year and then thin out, taking the original ‘mother plant’ leaving room for the babies. The babies will produce more fruit if you thin out as the original plants will slow down. So dig them out, start a new patch or give them to a friend. June bearing types put out a lot of runners and baby plants every year and must be thinned out for sure every 3 years.  Trim off the runners if they are running over your boundaries. I don’t know about the other types and how much they run.

PROTECTION: Now to keep the birds from eating them–I DON”T use that ‘bird’ netting as I got a small bird caught in one and it died and I felt awful so now I just cover the patch with row cover. I can water right through it and just pull it back to harvest. Much better. This is my third year so I will see how many I get what with the winter damage. Last year (second year) I got a ton and they were great!

For winter protection, some people put about 6 inches of straw over them after it freezes. I don’t bother, maybe I should have this past winter!

Strawberries looking great!

strawberry flowers

Strawberries are looking great with lots of flowers and fruit (still in the green stage but coming) My friend Michelle who gave me a bunch of starts last spring, told me to pick off all the flowers last year to let the plants grow more and that I would get a better crop of strawberries this year-she was right! It killed me last year but glad I listened. So far the birds aren’t interested  in the strawberry patch but I’m gonna put up some little hoops over the strawberries and put some bird netting on them to keep those birds out. I just have to do it before those strawberries turn red!