Vibrant summer desserts full of strawberry sweetness
Dazzling in colour and full of flavour, sweet, juicy strawberries make delectable desserts evocative of the sun-filled season
“Strawberries that in gardens grow Are plump and juicy fine, But sweeter far as wise men know Spring from the woodland vine” Robert Graves, ‘Wild Strawberries’
StRawbeRRies, with theiR plump heart shape and luscious ruby-red colour, are a sure sign that summer has truly arrived. Bursting with juicy sweetness, this tantalising fruit is synonymous with sunny days and traditional British desserts. Available from early June to August, the strawberry makes a relatively brief appearance. Its taste is often appreciated even more when the fruit is picked by hand straight from the farmer’s field. The average strawberry has 200 seeds and is the only fruit that displays them on the outside. Like raspberries, they are not a berry in the botanical sense, deriving from a single flower with several ovaries, rather than a flower with just one ovary. True berries typically have several seeds. More than 30 varieties are grown in the UK, each with its own characteristics. Jubilee strawberries are often considered the sweetest and the tastiest. Most British strawberries are red, but there are yellow and even white varieties. The white ones are called pineberries and taste more like pineapple than strawberries.
Wealth of benefits
The earliest mention of this tempting fruit was in Roman times, approximately 200BC. During the medieval period, newlyweds enjoyed strawberries with borage and soured cream for their wedding breakfast, believing them to be an aphrodisiac. They have long been a symbol of passion as well as purity and healing. Strawberries are not only delicious, they have many health benefits. In the past, they were used to help with digestive ailments, discoloured teeth and skin irritations. Just five strawberries are said to contain more vitamin C than an orange. High also in vitamins K, B5 and B6, the fruits are a source of folic acid, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids. They contain significant amounts of antioxidants, believed to be linked to their red hue. In choosing strawberries for the table, unblemished fruit are selected, with bright green hulls, or stalks. They should be handled gently and the hulls only removed after washing. If the fruits are allowed to reach room temperature before eating, this will intensify their taste. A dollop of thick fresh cream is often accompaniment enough, but the fruit’s vibrancy and flavour lends itself to a variety of seasonal treats. Eton mess, summer pudding, trifle, tarts and jam are among many favourites, but whatever the dish, strawberries will always warrant pride of place on the summer table.