The month of May ushers in the fleeting strawberry season, and also the opportunity to tramp through the fields of a pick-your-own farm to taste strawberries as they were meant to be eaten — perfectly ripe and warm from the sun. One cup of strawberries contains more vitamin C than an orange and is a good source of fiber, folate, manganese and potassium.
What to buy
Gone are the days when you could go to the grocery store and choose each strawberry you wanted to buy individually. Clamshell packaging makes that impossible, so make sure you pick up each box and rotate it to get a good look at what's inside. Strawberries should be bright red with tight green caps (they won't ripen once they're picked) without a speck of mold. Refrigerate as soon as you get them home, but don't wash them until you're ready to eat them.
How to prepare
The only limitation to a strawberry's versatility is your own imagination. Shortcake, pies, ice cream toppings, doughnuts, salads and even salsa can all exploit the sweet explosion of berry flavor. Because the season is so brief, one of the best ways to keep this taste of springtime around is to can your own strawberry preserves and lavish them on toast thickly until the berries start to ripen the following year.
Strawberries are heart-shaped (kind of) and bright red, so they became a symbol of Venus in the ancient world. Romans thought they cured melancholy, and we have to agree. What can be more cheering than a bowl of fresh strawberries with a heap of whipped cream on top?
Savory Strawberries Romanoff
Chef Carly Herring of The Dining Room at The Berkeley Hotel in Shockoe Slip shared one of her favorite strawberry recipes with us.
8 ounces of fresh strawberries 10 to 12 large basil leaves 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar 4 ounces of mascarpone cheese Salt and pepper to taste Remove the stems and leaves from the berries and cut in half. Chiffonade the basil leaves by stacking them, rolling them tightly and slicing them into thin strips. Combine the berries, vinegar and half of the basil and macerate for 6 to 8 hours. Reserve the other half of the basil. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Season the mascarpone to taste with salt and pepper and then set aside. Remove the berries from the vinegar and roast, insides up, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the edges begin to wrinkle and brown. Serve hot, topped with mascarpone.