It feels like summer is here now that my strawberries are ripening. The aroma of sweet berries fills the air every time I open the greenhouse door. I have been growing strawberries in my unheated greenhouse for several years. The soil is free draining and the plants have plenty of room to spread. Apart from an occasional feed, and plenty of water, I leave them alone to get on with the business of berry production.
Strawberries are best eaten fresh. They don’t freeze well as a fruit by themselves, but you can purée them and then serve as a sauce. The fresh purée makes excellent ice cream and sorbet too. I sometimes pop a few in with a fruit compote with other berries, but on the whole, I don’t cook them other than to make jam.
One of the best ways I’ve found to preserve them, is to dry slices in a dehydrator; this way you can enjoy them once the season is over. The perfume of drying strawberries is divine. If you have a dehydrator, slice the berries and brush them with a little lemon juice to help preserve the colour. 500g prepared strawberries, spread over 3 tiers in a dehydrator, will take between 3 ½ to 4 ½ hours at 70°C/158F. This amount yields about 65g. Sealed completely in an air-tight jar, and stored in a dark, dry cupboard, they will keep for several months. The dried slices add a splash of colour and a fragrant, fruity flavour to any bowl of cereal – especially good with Coconut granola (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan) – and they make a pretty, natural cake decoration too.
All round the garden borders, the wild strawberries are also beginning to turn colour. Whilst they are much more time-consuming to pick, they have a more perfumed flavour and make a lovely addition to a fruit salad. Leave them to ripen fully for the sweetest flavour, and eat them as soon after picking as possible – they really don’t keep well. I have a battle with the birds every year to get to them before they do! The plants are prolific spreaders, but give good ground cover and make a pretty display when in flower.
Strawberry serving suggestions
- Fresh strawberries go well with smoked salmon, Parma or Serrano ham, and peppery leaves like rocket or watercress. They are also delicious with slices of ripe avocado.
- Spread almond nut butter over warm toasted bread and top with lightly mashed strawberries and a little sugar for an indulgent toast topper.
- Add finely chopped tarragon, lavender syrup, rosewater or passion fruit juice to a bowl of strawberries to enhance the floral flavour of the fresh berries.
- For very sweet strawberries, halve and sprinkle with fruit or balsamic vinegar and freshly ground black pepper. Serve with goat’s cheese as a starter with salad ingredients.
- If you have sufficient wild strawberries, fold them into whipped cream with a little dessert wine and strawberry jam for a topping or filling for meringues.
- For a special fruit salad, mix halved strawberries with chopped mint and sugar, then toss in some lime juice, dry white wine or crème de cassis.
- Mash strawberries with vanilla sugar and fold into soft cheese to spread over pancakes.
- Pop a handful of wild strawberries into white balsamic vinegar to make a sweetly scented berry dressing for fruit or leaf salads later on in the year.