Strawberry-linden blossom compote makes a divine topping for a slab of vanilla-buttermilk pound cake
Heather Arndt Anderson / OPB


Superabundant dispatch: Strawberry-linden blossom compote with vanilla-buttermilk shortcake and this week’s news nibbles

By Heather Arndt Anderson (OPB)
June 21, 2024 1 p.m.

Eating trees to save the bees and how to use up all those berries you bought

OPB’s “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest with videos, articles and this weekly newsletter. Every week, Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian, food writer and ecologist, highlights different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem. This week she offers a recipe for a moist buttermilk shortcake with strawberry-linden blossom compote.

Click here to subscribe. For previous stories, go here.


As we wind down Pollinator Week, we thought we’d pay homage to the hard-working bees that bring so much superabundance to our region with a special treat: a zhuzhed-up strawberry shortcake. The floral fragrance of a perfectly ripe strawberry is unparalleled, except, possibly, for that of a linden tree on the summer solstice. As always, we say collaboration, not competition! Bring these two June exemplars together, preferably with whipped cream and a vanilla-buttermilk pound cake. Sure, you can use pretty much any kind of cake you like here, but we love the simplicity of this pound cake — thing is, it’s not a true pound cake. 🤫 Do you know why not? Read on to find out!

Camas crops, inherited coffee cravings, summer meals for school kids, a chat with Akkapong Ninsom and good things in markets, gardens and kitchens

The long history of camas cultivation in the Northwest

Though the first anthropologists to visit the region may have surmised that Indigenous Pacific Northwesterners were strictly hunter-gatherers, growing evidence suggests that wild plant populations were carefully managed in ways that can only be described as agricultural. A recent study by Oregon State University not only substantiates this but also suggests that populations of camas — a starchy, sweet root vegetable and an important trade commodity — have been managed with controlled burns for 3,000 to 4,000 years.

Coffee cravings have a genetic component

Turns out “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee” could be hereditary, according to a new study comparing genetic data from 23andMe samples from the U.S. and UK. Coffee has only been part of the American and British diets for a couple of hundred years, but a taste for it appears to be tied to genetic precursors for substance use and obesity, suggesting that like physical traits, behavior is hereditary.

Watch the Coffee episode of “Superabundant.”

Summer food service for Oregon school kids

With school cafeterias being closed for the summer, many low-income families struggle to get food for their growing kids. Thankfully, the Oregon Department of Education is ensuring that kids aged 1 to 18 will have free meals over the summer (no paperwork to fill out, so no requirement to prove need or immigration status). To find a pick-up site near you, visit the USDA’s Summer Meals Site Finder, call 211 for operator assistance or text FOOD or COMIDA to 304-304.

LangBaan chef on “All Things Considered”

OPB’s “All Things Considered” host (and Superabundant narrator) Crystal Ligori spoke with Portland chef and restaurateur Akkapong “Earl” Ninsom last week to discuss his recent James Beard Award win. Listen to it here.

Good things in markets

And welcome to our new segment, “welp, you’ve really stepped in it now — you impulse-bought three entire flats of [ ].” This week’s installment: local strawberries. OPB’s associate director of audience development, Robyn El Kay, came to “Superabundant” with this very quandary. “I literally did that and I ended up composting a couple pints. I had no idea the half-life on strawberries was like 48 hours.”

If you find yourself in a bind like Robyn’s, you’ve got some options: First, remember that you can always freeze them and deal with it later. Frozen berries aren’t just good for smoothies, but they’re also great for jam and baking. You can dump a bunch of them into a jar and top it off with vodka; leave them in a cool, dark cupboard and give them a gentle shake every day, and within a week you’ll have the most delicious, lurid-red booze for cocktails or sipping neat (and don’t chuck out those boozy berries — toss them in sugar and dehydrate them for later). And of course, you can try them in this week’s recipe.

Watch the Strawberry episode of “Superabundant”

Local cherries are popping off! But the recent rains may result in a less-sweet specimen — if you can, try to sample one before you buy. Raspberries are still as fragrant and plentiful as ever. Garlic scapes are good now, too — of course, if you grow hardneck garlic you can always just snip your own (it helps the garlic bulbs grow fatter).

In the “Superabundant” garden this week

Lindens are blooming around the neighborhood, and we’ve been collecting the blossoms to add a heady floral sweetness to teas, fruit jams and syrups. And friend of the newsletter Jonathan Kaufmann reminded us in his latest missive that the fronds of weedy, wild fennel are ready for plucking (if the plants near you have already begun blooming, try to capture some of the pollen — fennel pollen is one of those fancy boutique ingredients that you can sprinkle on stuff to impress your friends). If you pop a bag over the flowering heads and give them a stout shake or two, you should be able to collect a small jarful in no time at all.

Tomatillos and ground cherries are up and beginning to bloom, having volunteered from fallen fruit left in the beds last summer; their propensity for self-sowing is high on the list of reasons we take a laid-back approach to fall garden cleanup (another is that leaving debris is good for garden invertebrates — an important reminder during Pollinator Week!). Speaking of which, the radicchio that we forgot to harvest is now bolting, so here’s hoping some of those flowers ripen into viable seeds!

The shiso and crown daisy (aka garland chrysanthemum, tong ho choy, ssukgat or shungiku) that we seeded in the fall is coming up nicely and will soon be ready for adding to lettuce wraps and noodle salads. This year the apple trees are producing far less fruit than they did last year (the 2023 bumper crop is likely the reason why — the trees are still recovering!), but your fruit trees will likely benefit from a culling to minimize pest infestations and improve the quality of the remaining fruit.

Lately, in the “Superabundant” kitchen

✨ To make room for the loganberries and raspberries from the garden (it seems smarter to stash them there until the season is done, at which point all the jam can be made at once), we pulled out three rotisserie chicken carcasses for making chicken stock — pressure canning the stock also saves freezer room.

✨ We got a wild idea to make meatloaf parm — it’s everything you love about meatballs, but in a loaf! — and although it looked a hot mess (the mozzarella center oozed out ominously), it was pretty great on soft garlic bread.


✨ A friend passed along a tub of maple sugar that he wasn’t using, so we sprinkled it on slices of bacon cooking in the toaster oven. The sugar melted and caramelized beautifully, and the bacon was a spectacular addition to brioche French toast for brunch.

Recipe: Buttermilk pound cake with strawberry-linden blossom compote

Strawberry-linden blossom compote makes a divine topping for a slab of vanilla-buttermilk pound cake.

Strawberry-linden blossom compote makes a divine topping for a slab of vanilla-buttermilk pound cake.

Heather Arndt Anderson / OPB

We usually think of strawberries as a late spring fruit, since many of the most popular varieties are June-bearing. While Hoods and Shuksans might be on their way out, Oregon strawberry season is still very much underway. Day-neutral varieties like Seascape and Albion are nothing to sneeze at! And don’t you dare sleep on an Ozark Beauty!

Linden blossoms, however, have a finite and narrow window for gathering. Just as the elderflowers are bidding spring a fond farewell and acquiescing to fruit, the lindenbaum begin perfuming entire swaths of Portland with their small white blossoms, perched on their bracts like ostrich feathers in a hat. If you’ve ever parked your car beneath one, you know too well their talent for attracting aphids, which convert the tree’s sap into copious amounts of sticky honeydew.

This sap is high in the sugar mannose which, while important for human metabolism, is toxic to many native bees and wasps. (European honey bees don’t seem affected by the linden nectar, likely because they co-evolved with the trees.) To make matters worse, since lindens are planted as urban shade trees all over western Oregon, the aphids they attract create a conflict (the aforementioned sticky sap-coated cars) that humans too often solve with systemic pesticides. Because of this perfect storm of factors, mass bumblebee die-offs have been strongly correlated to urban lindens.

So what can you do about it? Pick as many linden blossoms as you can and turn them into dessert.

Linden flowers are lovely dried for tea — Steven Smith Teamaker’s Meadow blend uses them, as does the Hedgewitch and the Angry Inch tea blend from this newsletter’s author. You can use it to make liqueurs or syrups (and in turn, jellies and granitas), or you can macerate them with berries in a couple of spoonfuls of sugar to lavish over buttery cakes and whipped cream, like we do here. Serves 4-6.

Note: OK no, this is not technically a pound cake (which is traditionally made with a pound each of butter, eggs, sugar and flour) but the end result is pretty similar — the recipe yields a moist and tender crumb while being slightly sturdier than a sponge cake, with a subtle sweet twang of buttermilk. Baking it in a loaf pan also gives it that pound cake feel, but feel free to bake it as a sheet cake, bundt, a round or in a muffin tin if you prefer (alter the baking time accordingly. Since this makes a whole loaf, you’ll likely have leftover cake — it’s wonderful with jam as a breakfast or tea snack or you can cube it and toast it to top ice cream.


Buttermilk pound cake

2 cups all purpose flour

1 ¼ cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

½ teaspoon cardamom

1 cup buttermilk (or ¾ cup milk whisked with ¼ cup sour cream, crème fraîche or yogurt)

½ cup neutral cooking oil (like corn or vegetable)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon sparkling sugar (optional but nice)

Strawberry-linden blossom compote

1 dry pint fresh Oregon strawberries, rinsed, hulled and halved

¼ cup fresh linden blossoms

½ cup sugar

Whipped cream for serving (homemade is nice here)


  1. Bake the cake: Preheat the oven to 350o and line a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan with a strip of parchment paper. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder/soda, salt and cardamom) in a large mixing bowl until well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients (buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla). Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the wet ingredients into the center, whisking until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the sparkling sugar over the top of the batter. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 50-55 minutes, then transfer the cake to a cooling rack.
  2. While the cake is baking, make the compote: stir the strawberries, linden blossoms and sugar together in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and set aside.
  3. When the cake is cool enough to be sliced, slice it as thickly as you like (an inch or so seems fair). Give the berry compote another stir to evenly distribute the luscious syrup that’s formed, and spoon a generous serving over the cake. Add a dollop of whipped cream and another drizzle of the syrup over the top.

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