Strawberry Fest showcases beloved fruit, Upper Union Street neighborhood

Al Lansing and other local farmers — plus an assortment of artists and musicians — are hoping for su

Al Lansing would have appreciated some rain for his strawberries during May.

“We’re fully drip-irrigated,” said the chief at Lansing’s Farm Market and Greenhouse in Niskayuna. “So that drought we had that week in May, we were dripping the berries. They’re nice, red and luscious, pretty sweet. The sugar content is high and they look good.”

Al doesn’t want any rain for his strawberries on Saturday. He and other local farmers — plus an assortment of artists and musicians — are hoping for sun and spring breezes for the fourth annual Strawberry Fest sponsored by the Upper Union Street Business Improvement District. Strawberries and other merchandise will be sold from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. An art show, wine tastings and psychic readings are on the schedule for adults. Face paints, pony rides and balloons will be available for children.

4th Annual Strawberry Festival

WHAT: Local farmers, artists, musicians and activities for children

WHERE: Upper Union Street

WHEN: Saturday, 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.


“The reason we hold such events is to let people know who are not familiar with the neighborhood exactly what services, restaurants and shops we offer,” said Guy Sementilli, chairman of the Union Street BID and owner of Scotti’s restaurant. “It’s to show people what’s up here, to discover us.”

Shops and restaurants all make their own strawberry statements. “We’re going to do an Italian strawberry shortcake, Gershon’s is doing something, the City Squire does strawberry drink specials,” Sementilli said.

He added that even if people visit shops and don’t buy, that’s OK. Merchants hope visitors will remember upper Union Street, return and buy the second time around.

“It’s just a chance to bring more people into the community who haven’t been here before and say ‘Thank you’ to our returning customers and clients,” said Rosemary Prock, who co-owns the Sow’s Ear Studio artists’ store with her daughter Lauren.

“It kind of highlights that little area,” said Maureen Gebert, Schenectady Heritage Area coordinator, adding about 45 people took part in a tour of the district earlier this month. “There’s been more and more interest in the history of upper Union Street and what it has meant to the city over the years. It has always been a good, solid business community up there.”

Hometown vendors

Gebert said people who come to the Strawberry Fest — and Union Street’s Harvest Fest in October — will notice that there aren’t many outside vendors. “It’s hometown,” she said.

Musicians on the schedule include the Ramblin Jug Stompers, the Time Benders, 2 Broads with Alotta Sound, The Incredible Larry and Mike Jessop.

Lansing said the farmers’ market, which will be in business behind the Trustco bank branch at Union and Woodland Avenue, will also offer maple syrup, Angus beef and eggs. Soap by Ohm Organics, chocolate by the Chocolate Gecko, cheese from SB Cheese and wine from the Thousand Island Winery will also be for sale.

Jessica Lansing, Al’s daughter who works in the farm stand, expects strawberry products will be popular.

“You can put them in jam, we put them in our doughnuts, we do strawberry bread and of course, everybody’s favorite, strawberry-rhubarb pie,” she said.

She’s not sure how the pie became so popular in patches of strawberry lovers. “I think it’s the only thing people know what to do with rhubarb,” she said.

Al Lansing expects a run on the natural, heart-shaped berries that have not been squashed into drinks and mashed into pies. He sells them by the quart and the pint, for people who want them for larger projects like homemade jam and smaller notions like toppers for Cheerios.

“People love ’em, they can’t get enough of them,” he said of the fruit.

“When June comes and the home-grown berries are in, there’s nothing like a home berry. You can tell the difference when you pick something fresh and eat it the same day. There’s quite a difference in the taste.”


Courtesy Lansing Farm Market, Niskayuna

3 cups rhubarb stalks cut into 1⁄2 inch pieces (Trim outside stringy layer of large rhubarb stalks; make sure to trim away any leaves, which are poisonous, and discard. Trim ends)

1 cup strawberries, stemmed and sliced

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca

1⁄4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

Unbaked pie crust (two crusts for a 9-inch pie)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the rhubarb and the strawberries with the sugar, tapioca, salt and orange peel. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Place mixture into a pastry-lined pan. Top with the pastry, trim the edge, and crimp the top and bottom edges together. Cut slits in the top for steam to escape.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 30 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Serve warm or cold. If you cool to room temperature, the juices will have more time to thicken.

Strawberry Bread

Courtesy Lansing Farm Market, Niskayuna

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 eggs

1 cup shortening

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

Combine flour, salt, sugar, baking soda and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside. Beat eggs, then add the shortening.

Stir in dry ingredients until all are moistened, and then fold in the strawberries. Spoon batter into two well-greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes. Test and keep baking until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pans 10 minutes.


Courtesy Cornell Cooperative Extension, Rensselaer County

1 cup 1 percent milk

2 ripe bananas (frozen, if desired)

1 cup strawberries

2 1⁄2 cups vanilla or strawberry yogurt

Directions: Combine all ingredients in a blender, blend until smooth. Serves 4.

Each serving provides 190 calories, 30 calories from fat.


Courtesy Cornell Cooperative Extension, Rensselaer County

2 cups frozen strawberries

2 cups milk

1 cup heavy cream

1⁄2 cup sour cream

2 tablespoons white sugar

Purée strawberries, milk, heavy cream and sour cream in a blender or food processor until smooth. Stir in sugar to taste. Chill 8 hours or overnight in refrigerator before serving.

Nutrition information per serving: calories 252, fiber 1 gram, fat 20.3 grams, sodium 67 milligrams.

Categories: Life and Arts

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