Berry, berry good.
I’ve got strawberries growing in pots and they’re coming on beautifully, however I did lose a few to Mr Two who took a while to understand you have to wait until they’re red to pick them; he didn’t seem to mind eating them green but they don’t ripen after picking.
He loves strawberries, and most kids do. They’re beautiful to look at too. They are the only fruit with the seeds on the outside, with each fruit carrying an average of two hundred. Visiting a berry farm to pick your own is a great family outing. Eating a fresh strawberry at its best is a delight. Go in the morning while the fruit is still cool. I’m growing them with black plastic over the top of the soil – I just opened up old plastic shopping bag – to keep the fruit clean and the soil moist, like they do on commercial strawberry farms.
Strawberry ‘runners’ are planted by hand in winter and produce fruit in spring, although greenhouse strawberries are available all year round. Strawberries are fragile and picked and packed by hand making them a fairly labour-intensive commercial crop.
Choose plump, red, shiny berries without white bits to ensure maximum freshness, sweetness and flavour. Avoid packs with squashed berries and juice in the bottom that indicates old or overripe fruit. Strawberries are best stored in the fridge, spread out in a single layer to avoid damage, but taste their best at room temperature so take them out for a while before eating. Wash gently in cool water (do not soak) before hulling and eating and allow to air-dry or pat gently with paper towel.
Strawberries are fabulous eaten as a snack but they also lend themselves to different serving ideas: strawberries and ice cream or cream is a classic simple dessert, and the antipodean specialty pavlova begs for strawberries on top.
- Strawberry shortcake is the stuff of fairy tales, and strawberries add beautiful colour to a fruit salad.
- A strawberry smoothie just screams “healthy”, as a chocolate coated strawberry says “a treat with benefits”.
- For something different, marinate halved strawberries in balsamic vinegar and a little icing sugar and serve with finely shredded fresh basil. It sounds odd but do try it on toast with a dollop of ricotta, as a filling for crepes or jaffles, in a parfait, or in an ice cream sundae.
They are best eaten on the day you buy them but if your strawberries last long enough to go mushy, cook them up with a sprinkle of sugar to make your own sauce (when pureed and strained this is called a coulis) you can then chill and serve over natural yoghurt, ice cream, wholegrain breakfast cereal or wholegrain English muffins with ricotta. Strawberries can also be frozen for up to a year (and commercially frozen berries are good value for enjoying them out of season). They can be frozen whole in a single layer with stem to preserve their shape, or after cooking.
Strawberries are rich in vitamin C, with one cup providing 180% of the recommended daily intake. They are also high in the B-vitamin folate needed for a healthy heart and healthy pregnancy. Like other berries, strawberries are low natural sugars, low in kilojoules, low GI and packed with beneficial flavonoid antioxidants. They are also a source of fibre for digestive health and potassium for better blood pressure.
Just the other day Mr Two mistook a red heart shape in a book for a strawberry, which I thought was very appropriate considering how much we both love strawberries. The only down side is waiting for them to ripen on the vine, but all good things come to those who wait.