In the Strawberry Patch
Strawberries aren’t just naturally sweet and juicy—they’re high in nutrients and one of the best foods you can eat.
Photography by John W. Hession
Strawberries are, without a doubt, one of the most beloved and versatile of all berry fruits. For me, one of the heights of the short season is tromping through lush strawberry fields with basket in hand, looking for that “undiscovered patch,” then crouching down on bended knees to pluck that first perfectly ripe berry and pop it into my mouth. A long awaited and sheer pleasure!
I look for berries that are the deepest shade of red with no white tips (which is an indication that they are not the most flavorful). And I make sure to pick the berries with their stems so that juice is not lost.
While I am judiciously gathering the berries, my mind is conjuring up old and new ways to use them: strawberry rhubarb pie, strawberry tart, strawberry jam—those are popular and familiar. But what about using strawberries for main dishes, such as a delicate sauce for grilled fish or a surprise ingredient for a creamy risotto?
Although strawberries from afar are available all year long, for my money, it is worth the wait for local strawberry farms to open—usually mid-June in New England but so often dependent on the weather. Roadside signs invite us to come “pick your own.” This is a great family activity and teaches children a valuable lesson about where our foods come from. Choosing to get our foods as close to home as possible says we care about clean, sustainable and local food.
Farmers’ markets also burst with already picked baskets of berries for you to take home.
Strawberries are very perishable. Once picked, they should be rinsed, dried, and consumed or used in recipes immediately. Refrigerating them for more than a day is not good because a cold environment affects the flavor. If you are freezing them, they will be good for sauces, compotes, cobblers and pies. But one of the best options? Fill a bowl of strawberries and enjoy the fruit of your labor.
Dr. William Butler, a seventeenth-century English writer said it best when it comes to my fondness for strawberries: “Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.”
Try these delicious strawberry dishes: