Summer comes early for British strawberries

Strawberries are arguably the most quintessentially British ingredient and their welcome arrival marks the beginning of summer, usually starting in June. Because of the surprisingly mild Spring we’ve just had, British strawberries have ripened early and some producers’ crops are said to be up 150% this year, compared to usual. The increased heat and sunshine has made our local strawberries particularly sweet and juicy, and the glut has meant prices in the shops have plummeted drastically. Good news for strawberry lovers. Grocers’ shelves are, or will soon be, full to bursting with cheap British strawberries so get out there and make the most of them before they go to waste. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the ‘false fruit’ (ie. not technically a fruit or berry) I particularly like them dipped in balsamic vinegar rather than smothered with cream. It perhaps goes without saying that they are at their best picked ripe and eaten soon afterwards, at room temperature.

They can be made into oodles of different desserts, of course, my favourites would perhaps be homemade strawberry ice cream, chilled strawberry and mint soup, and strawberry, yoghurt and rose delice (I’m happy to supply recipes if anyone’s interested). Try also paired with cucumber, avocado, tomato or goat’s cheese in savoury dishes.       Or, why not try preserving them to be appreciated at a later date?

Strawberry and elderflower jam

1kg strawberries, 500g granulated sugar, 450g jam sugar (with added pectin), 150ml lemon juice, a glug of elderflower cordial and/or a couple of elderflower heads (optional).

Put 200g of the strawberries in a pan with the same amount of sugar and mash to a pulp.

Heat gently until warm, then add the rest of the strawberries.

Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the remaining sugar and stir gently to dissolve.

Add the lemon juice.

Increase the heat and boil rapidly for 8 minutes until setting point is reached.

Remove from the heat and stir in the elderflower cordial and/or a small handful of elderflowers.

Pour into sterilised jars, seal and use within 12 months.

Did you know…

Strawberries are a member of the rose family, they are rich in vitamin C, manganese and folic acid and are linked with protecting against heart disease, strokes and cancers.

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