Is there any food quite so synonymous with summer as the great British strawberry?
These days, you can get strawberries in the supermarket all year round, but the imported varieties — which can be rather watery and tasteless — don’t hold a candle to our homegrown berries with their intense juicy sweetness.
The British strawberry season has arrived early with this year’s crop set to be even sweeter than last year.
We have the spring’s bright weather to thank for the sweeter strawberries — with the UK bathing in approximately 166 hours of sunshine in April, 7% above average for the month.
This has resulted in the strawberry crop enjoying an increased level of sunlight which has boosted their natural sugar content.
Nick Marston, Chairman of British Summer Fruits, the industry body that represents 95% of berries supplied to UK supermarkets said: “It looks to be another fantastic year for British strawberries. However, rising energy and labour costs are presenting real challenges for UK berry growers.
“Despite these challenges, British strawberries remain a true success story. The UK is totally self-sufficient in strawberries for the entire summer season which now runs from May to October as farms continue to advance growing techniques, such as large-scale glasshouse production for season extension. This allows us to offer shoppers locally grown fresh berries for longer.”
Once you’ve got your berries, it’s best to eat them when they are as fresh as possible as strawberries don’t store brilliantly.
If you’re not going to devour them straight away though, keep them in the fridge in an airtight container, and only wash them just before eating. Some chefs recommend washing your strawberries in a mixture of water and vinegar (two parts water to one part vinegar) to help prevent mould, but other say it can dull the taste — it might be worth a try though if you want your berries to last that little bit longer.
Strawberries and cream are a classic combination for a reason, but these beautiful summer berries also work well in desserts and cakes, or you could make a strawberry jam. For a slightly more unusual flavour combo try drizzling your strawberries with a little balsamic vinegar, a couple of grinds of black pepper or a few basil leaves.