June: the month for berries
June is high season for lovers of fruit and veg. This is when you’ll find the greatest abundance of delicious regional varieties. Colourful salads, smoothies, tasty vegetable side dishes and fruit-based desserts made from locally-grown produce are all destined for the table this month. In particular, June is the best time of year for berry-lovers, with a wealth of fresh berries just waiting to be picked. We have turned our attention to this summery fruit and put together everything you need to know, plus some fantastic recipes.Not a true berryDid you know that the strawberry isn’t actually a berry in the botanical sense? It is actually an ‘aggregate fruit’ – a fruit made up of multiple seeds. The little yellow pips that adorn the outside of strawberries are the actual fruits. ‘Honeoye’, ‘Earliglow’, ‘Pegasus’, ‘Lambada’, ‘Polka’ – these aren’t fairytale characters, mythical creatures or even dances, but rather varieties of strawberry. There are hundreds of varieties of the ‘queen of fruits’ that will grow in the UK, And this epithet is justly deserved, as they are both utterly delicious and very healthy. Strawberries are good for the heart, boost the immune system, aid mental agility and even have a good carbon footprint. However, plenty of people are allergic to strawberries – roughly 5–7% in the UK.
Between May and JulyPicking strawberries at exactly the right time is very important, as the fruits do not continue to ripen once they have been harvested. They should no longer have any green spots, but nor should they be mushy. Strawberries ripen and become ready for picking from late May to late July.
Strawberries are 90% water, but the remaining 10% packs everything else in. Strawberries are richer in vitamin C than oranges and lemons, with approx. 65mg per 100g. They also contain vitamin K, folic acid, vitamin H and pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), and are a source of potassium and iron. Strawberries have over 300 different flavouring substances, including two secondary phytochemicals and ferulic and ellagic acid, which help to prevent cancer.Nutritional values per 100 g: 33 kcal; 5.5 g carbohydrate; 0.4 g fat; 0.8 g protein; 1.6 g fibre
Strawberries are somewhat wimpy in the kitchen. Blasting them with cold water can make them watery and mushy, so it’s best to place them in a bowl of fresh water to get them clean. Gently move the fruit around in the bowl to loosen any remaining dirt, then drain in a sieve or on kitchen paper. The green leaves, which are also known as sepals, can now be removed, along with the stalk. The riper the strawberry, the easier it will be to detach the sepals. Frozen strawberries are ideal for making smoothies, mousse, ice cream or flavoured yoghurt or quark. And while they are great for putting in cakes, fruit salads or jams, strawberries also work well in savoury dishes. Chilli or pepper really brings out their flavours, while air-dried ham or fresh cream cheese are delicious when paired with the tangy sweetness of strawberries. Just give it a try!
Moisture, pressure and cold can all cause strawberries to lose their nutrients, flavour and shape. As such, it’s best to eat them immediately after picking or buying. They will keep for 1–2 days in the fridge. Strawberries with large dents or mouldy patches should be discarded right away, rather than kept with the others. Strawberries are great for freezing. Ideally, they should be pre-frozen next to each other in a single layer, to prevent them sticking together when thawed. After pre-freezing, simply transfer to bags or containers and freeze fully.
The small Virginia strawberry and the large Chilean strawberry were first crossed in the USA over 200 years ago. Only the small wild strawberry is native to the UK. The large strawberries we know today have been expertly cultivated here since the early 19th century.