The first strawberries of the season are always a treat! You can eat them all year round, flown in from various countries at different times of year, but British grown berries are something special with a unique flavour and sweetness all of their own.
My earliest memory of strawberries comes from visits to my Grannie & Grandpa’s house near Crail in Fife. They had their own strawberry patch and the season was short. I remember the berries were always served with a bowlful of caster sugar. You put a teaspoonful at the side of your plate and dipped each berry into it before eating. Cream was an extra, usually drizzled over then topped with more sugar!
Another memory is of being commandeered to help pick strawberries as a child. The plants were bedded with straw and netted against birds and rabbits, the netting was fairly low and the corner or side was lifted up so that you could get underneath to the strawberries. It was then a case of crawling around up and down the rows, picking everything that was ripe, checking underneath the leaves & straw for hidden berries. This was fine at the beginning of the season, but as time wore on it became more of a chore, there were more berries to haul and the novelty had worn off!
How times have changed!
Times have changed now, commercial crops are now grown in poly-tunnels, so that picking isn’t interrupted by rain. Berries are grown off the ground to enable them to be picked more easily and quickly. There is no straw to harbour slugs, snails and mice (all strawberry lovers) and even the watering is computer controlled. Varieties have been bred to be sweeter and sugar has become an elephant in the room. Concerns for children’s teeth, obesity and diabetes are ruling it out.
Food preparation time has also changed, people no longer wish to be creating complicated and elaborate dishes, recipes have to be quick and easy but still impressive.
Some of the best things to do with strawberries
So, from the fresh, humble strawberry picked & eaten straight off the bush with nothing but sunshine to serve with it, here are my go to favourites. Experiment with flavours and find your own!
Plain with a dusting of icing sugar or drizzle of maple syrup, try some finely shredded mint or basil leaves or a grind of black pepper to bring out the flavour. A few drops of good quality aged balsamic vinegar is also delicious. Cut very large berries up and sprinkle with a little sugar to draw out the juices and create a syrup.
One of the most delicious and versatile things to have with strawberries are Scotch pancakes or drop scones. Eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with a coffee or afternoon tea. Have them with fresh strawberries or strawberry jam. A family treat is pancakes for breakfast with Greek yogurt, strawberries and maple syrup. Knock the socks off bakery pancakes and make your own. They’re really quick and easy and you can make them as big or as small as you like. Click HERE to download my recipe.
Pies and Tarts
The ideas are endless here; you have either shortcrust or puff pastry tarts or tartlets filled with cream or creme patisserie topped with strawberries. My favourite is to mix cooled vanilla flavoured creme patisserie with lightly whipped cream and then dab the strawberries with either a redcurrant or black cherry jam glaze. Try different flavours in the creme patisserie – orange, lime or rosewater work well. Use whole berries for the top or slice them up if large. Give this recipe from Delicious Magazine a go.
Tend to be a bit watery once defrosted, but I like to freeze some to use over the winter, just take the husks off and freeze loosely packed in bags. You can then decant them as you need them – great in compote either as a dessert or on your muesli or porridge in the morning, they can be added to crumbles or defrosted, topped with greek yogurt & a sprinkling of dark brown sugar and warmed through in a warm oven, just until the sugar melts.
Strawberries make great drinks, just de-husk and blend them up. For milk based smoothies, blend with milk & a scoop of ice cream (strawberry ice cream is even better). If you like a fruit based smoothie, use banana or mango for sweetness, apple or orange juice also work well. If you’re after a morning health drink, try celery sticks and half an avocado to thicken.
Let me know what you’re favourite go to strawberry recipe is…