When you start seeing adverts for Wimbledon on the telly, this can only mean one thing – no, not the annual rallying cry for a British Wimbledon champion (although these days there’s a much better chance of that actually happening) but the start of strawberry season. When it comes to buying fruit, us Brits aren’t usually that fussy about seasonality, but strawberries seem to be the exception to this rule.
We might see the odd punnet of Spanish strawberries on the supermarket shelves prior to May/June, but many of us poor scorn on them, preferring to wait until our home-grown British varieties are in season. So what is it about this fruit that we cherish so? Why are we prepared to wait until the summer when we demand every other fruity offering all year round? And how can we make the most out of them while we have them? Well, I don’t have the answers to all these questions (who know what goes on in our eccentric brains), but I might be able to help you out with a few pointers…
First off, the reason we are prepared to wait to consume in a short period of time every year I think boils down nostalgia about the Great British Summer Time, the same reason why the thought of drinking Pimms and lemonade in the winter is absolutely abhorrent. The taste of strawberries brings back evocative childhood memories for many of us, of summers where rainy days never featured. We’d quite like to preserve this somewhat rose-tinted view so if that means sacrificing strawberries for the rest of the year in order to retain and strengthen their powers of nostalgia, then so be it.
Another reason why we love them is that they taste so bloody good. I think it’s fair to say that eating fruit is considered a chore by many of us, especially if said fruit doesn’t have a great deal of flavour or a particularly pleasant texture. However, there is something rather indulgent about the strawberry – eating one is so much more of a treat than a duty or punishment. Their health qualities are just as good, if not better than a lot of other types of fruit, yet the prospect of eating them is something that is relished rather than dreaded. And of course, the fact that we know they’re not around all the time might make them even more delicious.
So how can we get the most out of them? Thinking about this has made me wonder why more of us don’t grow our own to be honest. You don’t need a vast expanse of land, just a pot or two and a bit of sunshine. Buy some ready-grown strawberry plants (or make friends with someone who will give you one of their’s) and tend to from June to September and if you are a frequent consumer of strawberry punnets from your local supermarket, this could well save you a few pounds over the summer.
And as for strawberry recipes, well there are many options of course – jams, cheesecakes, trifles, Victoria sponges….but the beauty of the strawberry is its simplicity – perfect on its own, or dusted with a bit of sugar and accompanied by a dollop of cream. Perhaps this is another reason why we love them so.
Seasonality has only strengthened our love affair with the strawberry and given us an appreciation of flavour and quality over other factors. Think about what seasonal consumption could do for the quality of the rest of our supermarkets offerings – surely this should be the norm rather than the exception?