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The Food Squad Does Strawberries

The Food Squad Does Strawberries

Clockwise from left: Rachel Sayet, Raquel Rivera-Pablo, Farron Harvey, and Tagan Engel

Clockwise from left: Rachel Sayet, Raquel Rivera-Pablo, Farron Harvey, and Tagan Engel

It’s STRAWBERRY SEASON in the northeast, and we thought that was good reason to get a Food Squad together for all things Strawberry!

The Food Squad is a crew of food lovers of all backgrounds and perspectives who pop up, a few at a time, on The Table Underground to dish on food adventures, culture, recipes, food stories, liberatory food justice and so much more... this is the joy of food in life and community, especially marginalized communities, and it's deep, delicious, fun and definitely not your average food show.  

The Strawberry Food Squad:

Rachel Sayet - is a Mohegan food expert and the Museum Exhibits and Events Specialist at the Tantaquidgeon Museum operated by the Mohegan Tribe.

Raquel Rivera-Pablo is the owner of A Pinch of Salt Catering and culinary education company.

Farron Harvey: is the youth and school garden program manager with the Green Village Initiative in Bridgeport CT, as well as a passionate baker and jam maker extraordinaire.

Tagan Engel: is the Host and Producer of The Table Underground, a chef and food activist with over 20 years of experience in food and food justice work.

Iroquois strawberry drink & Cherokee Strawberry Love story
w/ Rachel Sayet.

Rachel speaks on the indigenous practice of giving thanks for seasonal foods like strawberries. She shares a Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) strawberry drink enjoyed by first nations people across this continent, and offers a Cherokee love story “The First Strawberries” centered around strawberries, also known as heart berries. Rachel will be hosting the first public food festival at the Tantaquidgeon Museum built established by her family: A Strawberry Thanksgiving on Saturday July 13th, 2019 from 10:30-2:30pm. There will be free strawberry drink, traditional strawberry cornbread, and strawberry shortcake, a colonial invention inspired by the colonizers love of indigenous cornbread. RSVP to

Strawberries are so special to the Haudenosaunee people that they are even in their creation story. Check out the link above for more info, and the recipe below adapted from Lauren Mapp of Off The Mapp Blog.

2 pints of fresh strawberries
2 TBS sugar (maple sugar or syrup is more traditional for the northeast)
Fresh, filtered Water (enough to fill pitcher)

1. Remove leaves from strawberries, then slice them lengthwise.
2. Save 6 strawberries-worth of slices and mash remaining strawberries with a fork, muddler or potato masher.
3. Mix sugar with mashed strawberries, and then add the mixture and sliced strawberries to a 1 gallon pitcher.
4. Fill the remainder of the pitcher with fresh water and enjoy. Can be served chilled or over ice.

Note: You can omit the sugar if you desire a less sweet or healthier juice. You can also substitute agave syrup, maple sap (not syrup) or honey for the sugar - just add a little at a time until it is the desired level of sweetness.

Sexy Strawberry Vinaigrette & Diversifying Farmers’ markets
w/ Raquel Rivera-Pablo

Raquel shares her love of local strawberries and the heart-led work she does to make farmers’ markets accessible to the Black and Brown peoples, kids, and vendors who live in the city of Bridgeport. In her usual fly style Raquel also offers up her recipe for a “Sexy Strawberry Vinaigrette”.

Raquel’s Sexy Strawberry Vinaigrette:
1 Pint fresh strawberries (or frozen strawberries, thawed)
1 teaspoon mustard
Splash or two of apple cider vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
honey or agave - optional and to taste
Place strawberries, vinegar and mustard in a blender and pulse until berries are blended but still have small pieces of fruit. Adjust acidity by adding more vinegar if you like, season with salt and pepper to taste, and add a touch of sweetener if desired. No oil needed for this recipe, and you can add herbs like tarragon, mint, basil, or thyme for more fun in your salad. Toss with greens and enjoy!

Black Food Brilliance & Grandma’s Berry Jam
w/Farron Harvey

Farron’s love of fresh foods and her heritage led her to start making and selling jams just like her grandma makes, all with locally berries and reduced sugar. She shares on the legacy of Black folks preserving foods and inventing culinary brilliance from produce that was about to spoil. Farron offers the story of how a pre-diabetes diagnosis led her into farming and the process of reconnecting and healing with the land as a Black American. You can reach Farron by email:

Grandma’s Berry Jam
7 pounds Strawberries - greens removed, and fruit sliced in half
3 to 5 cups Sugar (anywhere from 1/2cup to 3/4 cup sugar per pound of berries)
Juice from 1 lemon
1 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice (this is extra acidity needed if you are canning jam)
Jars and lids to bottle it up

Place halved strawberries in a pot and squish them with your hands to break up the fruit. Add sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil/simmer and cook until the liquid thickens and the jam looks less watery and more syrupy (about 1.5 to 2 hours). You can test jam by dripping some onto a cold plate to see if it thickens when cool. This jam will be runnier than store bought jam that contains pectin. Pour boiling hot jam into clean jars and screw on lids. Jam can be kept in the refrigerator. If you want to preserve it for storage in a cabinet screw on lids to “finger tip tightness” and process jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids to see if they have sealed after 24 hours. The lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Solidarity w/ Berry Pickers in Mexico and USA
w/Tagan Engel

boycott_Driscolls graphic.png

To many Americans, the people who grow and pick our food are invisible to us as we buy produce off grocery store shelves, where food is purchased from big conglomerates such as Driscoll’s fruit company. Check out this recent article on migrant farm workers organizing for better pay, after being forced to leave Mexico and farm in horrific, toxic conditions in the USA due to trade agreements like NAFTA. Workers in Mexico are also forced to migrate from their communities to the San Quintin Valley where the agricultural jobs are.

In 2015 workers across Mexico and southern California called for an international boycott on Driscoll’s berry company which purchases from numerous “independent companies”. Workers are forced to pick 12+ hours a day for only $7 to $9/a day in inhumane and dangerous conditions. The workers said “We do not want to be forced to migrate. If paid a decent wage with benefits, there would be no reason for migration.”

It is hard to find updated and independent information on what is happening with the boycott in 2019. According to the Driscoll’s website there is an extensive statement about how they are addressing the abuse of workers through independent third party audits and adhering to fair trade certification standards. It is good that they are making these statements online, but their actions will need to be verified to see if real changes are made to the farming conditions and treatment of workers.

Another way to address workers rights is to buy fruit in season where you live and talk directly to farmers and farm owners (or do some research online) about their growing and labor practices. If you are interested in growing or picking your own berries, you can do that too! Below is a picture of my tiny backyard strawberry bed, as well as Jone’s Family Farm where I often go to pick berries. You can find a spot to pick berries in the USA and a few other countries @

strawberry Recipes: Easy Homemade Yogurt & Chia Pudding
w/ Tagan engel

There are so many fabulous strawberry recipes out there. These are two of my homemade staple recipes that I love with any fruit, especially strawberries, so they’re in high rotation this time of year! Check out my recipes for Easy Homemade Yogurt and Chia Pudding with Strawberries.

More Links to info from this episode:
CT Core Food Justice Network and Guide
The Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen guide to pesticides on produce from EWG
The True History of Thanksgiving - a past podcast with three indigenous leaders
A Community of Food Entrepreneurs Grows in Bridgeport w/ A Pinch of Salt - a past podcast

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