Strawberries are the quintessential British fruit. Those grown here have a deliciously sweet, fragrant flesh and delicate texture, but are available for just a few weeks over the summer. The importation into Britain of other varieties mean that strawberries are now available all year round.
Elsanata is one of the most commonly found strawberries; it is sweet and juicy with a crisp texture. Ava is a softer, sweeter variety that’s also very popular. Frais be Bois are tiny wild strawberries from France with a unique perfumed flavour and aroma.
The British strawberry season lasts from late May to early September. Imported berries are sold all year round.
Look for plump, shiny berries with a sweet aroma. The green calyx and stalk should be bright and still attached. Avoid any berries that are soft or show signs of mould. Smaller berries tend to be sweeter. Try to avoid berries that look under-ripe, as strawberries don’t complete the ripening process once picked.
Avoid washing, but if the barriers are sandy, rinse gently and pat dry. Using your finger and thumb simply pull off the green calyx and core, then serve the berries whole or sliced. They are delicious with cream or ice cream, added to fruit salads, piled onto cream-filed tarts or blended into fruit smoothies. Eton Mess, a pudding of crushed meringues, cream and strawberries tumbled together, is another classic British way to serve them. Sliced strawberries are also delicious drizzled with a little balsamic vinegar, and the berries also make delicious strawberry jam – an ideal way to preserve their flavour all year round.
Strawberries are best eaten the day they are purchased, but will keep for up to 2 days in the fridge. Place them in a single layer on a plate to avoid crushing and bring them to room temperature before serving.