With late spring/early summer comes my region’s first strawberry harvest, and I’m so excited to have received my first flat (6 quarts) of organic, local strawberries. So I think it’s high time to discuss these little delicious jewels of happiness and some of the many recipes that can be made from them.
The garden strawberry is a widely grown hybrid species of the genus Fragaria, collectively known as simply “strawberry”, and are cultivated worldwide for their fruit. The strawberry is widely appreciated for its distinctive aroma, bright red color and external seeds, juiciness and sweetness. It’s consumed in large quantities, either fresh or in such prepared foods as jams, pies and other pastries, ice creams, milkshakes, and smoothies. Artificial strawberry flavorings and aromas are also widely used in products such as candy, soap, lip gloss, perfume, and many others.
- The strawberry fruit has been around since ancient Roman times and have been listed in several texts, though most often mentioning their use as a medicinal aid; they were used to treat everything from depression to fever and sore throats.
- The strawberry is not, from a botanical point of view, actually a berry; technically, it is an “aggregate accessory” fruit, meaning that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant’s ovaries but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries. Each apparent “seed” on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it. Whoa.
- Speaking of seeds, there are 200 seeds on an average strawberry.
- California produces about 75% of the US crop of strawberries.
- Strawberries are considered a perennial and will grow back annually for about 5 years.
- Strawberries are so popular they are grown in every US state and Canadian province.
- There is a museum in Belgium dedicated to the strawberry!
And now to the good stuff: the recipes!
Strawberry Jam: this simple recipe from my much beloved Bernardin Book of Home Preserving (I believe it’s called the Ball Book in the US?) makes a nice amount of jam that is beautifully flavourful, not too sweet, and ruby red.
Strawberry Rhubarb Compote: this recipe is as easy to make as it is delicious; this compote is amazing over oatmeal, yogurt, scones and definitely vanilla ice cream!
Strawberry Sorbet: Speaking of ice cream, how about this yummy strawberry sorbet? It’s a little more involved than my sorbet/sherbet post last week, and does work best with an ice cream maker, but it is delicious and absolutely worth the time and effort to make.
Fresh Strawberry Meringue Cake: this delicious-looking cake from Southern Living website is a perfect use of those locally-grown, just picked berries. This cake just screams, “Summer Garden Party!” to me. It may be a bit fiddly to make, but imagine the oohs and aahs you will receive upon its unveiling.
Strawberry Butter: what an unusual compound butter! Scrumptious on toast or scones or English muffins or regular muffins or pancakes or DIRECTLY IN MY MOUTH, this strawberry butter by the Martha Stewart website is a simple method with a great payoff.
There are thousands of recipes that make use of this bountiful berry; my recommendation is that you try some locally grown to compare their deliciousness to the imported varieties, and maybe you’ll see why I make such a big deal about these beauties! Whatever recipe you try, it’s worth it. 🙂