Strawberry Fields

You can imagine my delight at the sight of large spreads of strawberries everywhere at the Green City Market this morning. It did present a problem: I had to pick someone’s strawberries, and they almost all looked great.

Strawberries, like apples and many other fruits, come in countless cultivars, some better for fresh eating, others better for cooking or other such recipes. I’ve never been one to cook strawberries until I have a glut and need to save them, and even then, I like to just make preserves. Only on rare occasion would I actually make a strawberry pie, delicious as they are, because we still have rhubarb, and the full riot of summer fruits is just around the corner.

Most of the strawberries at the market this morning were hybrids, larger berries, specifically designed to look good, and travel well. They tend to be firmer than the old-fashioned, or heritage varieties, and have a lighter color, which translates into lighter juice as well, in the case of strawberries. I picked up a couple bushels from Mick Klug (Benton Harbor, MI) to gussy up our plates at brunch. They’re delicious.

Strawberry shortcake is another matter. Heritage varieties work best, and at a minimum you need small, deep red berries with that intoxicating aroma that modern hybrids just don’t possess. I was lucky to get about a bushel from Green Acres (North Judson, IN) that are just that – heady aroma, sweet, and tart all at once, with a luscious texture. They’ll go into strawberry shortcakes, just macerated with a little sugar, nothing more. We’ll also make our first of the season strawberry ice cream. We don’t cook those berries either, just macerate them, and straight into the ice cream freezer. Hopefully it’s ready by this evening…