Let me take you down, cos I’m going to Strawberry Fields
– John Lennon
We all love the more relaxed state of mind summer brings, and for us strawberries epitomise summertime here in Britain.
Strawberry season is well upon us, and having had the sunniest weather for over 90 years 2015 is truly a bumper crop. Wimbledon spectators ate their way through a staggering 28,000 kilos this year and with good reason. Not only are they fragrant and tasty but they are good for you too.
The strawberry plant, along with its good friend the raspberry plant, is a member of the rose family; and in Ancient Greece the strawberry was a symbol for Venus, the Goddess of Love. It is actually not a berry in the true sense as strawberries carry their pips on the outside of their flesh rather than on the inside.
Strawberries have high nutritional value. Eight strawberries contain more Vitamin C then an orange; 100g of strawberries will serve you for just 50 calories and 0g of fat. They can whiten your teeth. Strawberries are believed to reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers – they are full of vitamin C, B6, fibre, folic acid, potassium and amino acids.
Strawberries also contain high levels of nitrate. This has been proven to increase blood and oxygen level flow to the muscles. It is believed that people who load up on strawberries prior to exercising have far greater endurance and burn more calories.
Not bad for a little red berry.
Health properties aside I like my strawberries with meringues and whipped cream and so my recipe this month is Eton Mess. This is traditionally served at the annual cricket match between Eton College and Harrow public schools. Legend has it that the hampers containing the meringues and strawberries for the cricket tea were dropped, the meringues were smashed and the strawberries crushed. What to do? Mix it all up and serve with a smile, after all, this is England old chap!
‘Fragaria’ is the name of the genus collectively known as strawberries, and most strawberries were cultivated from Fragaria brought from Chile and France in the 18th century.
Strawberries are extremely versatile. They are freezable, especially if you are planning on blitzing them into a smoothie or simmering them to make a coulis afterwards. Strawberry sauce on pancakes, waffles or ice cream goes down a treat at any time of year.
Make a jug of lemonade look pretty by adding halved strawberries and slices of lemon to it. Serve them on porridge, or with meringues, in trifle or made into jam. Strawberries have a lot to answer for, and it just wouldn’t be summer without them!
If we’ve tickled your fancy there are a few places pretty close to home on the outskirts of London, where you can still Pick Your Own. Gather up your children, grab a basket, and head to:
Recipe for Strawberry Compote Sauce
- 500g Ripe strawberries, hulled
- 4 tbsp Caster sugar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
Cut the strawberries in half and put in a pan with the sugar and lemon juice. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves, then bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and cook the strawberries for 5 minutes or until dark red and syrupy. Strain if you wish. Cool. The compote can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.