In defense of the summer strawberry
Local strawberries are on the shelves, heralding the start of the summer produce season.
Summer is my favourite time of year for food. It's when everything is fresh and crisp, seasonal food can be gotten from local farms, and the tastes are almost always superior. The start of this season for me is when you see the strawberries come out in the markets.
Oh sure, you can get strawberries all year long. They look pretty good too. But if you bite into them, you know they are different. They don't have the same juiciness, that run down your hand and stain your skin kind. They don't have the same sweetness either. One bite and you know summer is here.
Instead year round strawberries are wooden, with a muted flavour. It's still a strawberry, but a pale imitation of the summer variety. Generally they come from far away, California mostly, using an ever bearing type of plant. But something about either the plant or the transportation takes away from their flavour.
Buying strawberries year round cheapens them when they actually come in season too. If you can buy them all year, what's so special about them when they come out locally?
Seeing the rows of bright red berries heralds the good things to come over the next few months. Nothing beats the fresh flavours of food that for the most part has only been out of the ground for a few hours or a day. No, the berries aren't like the perfect ones in the stores. You get big ones, little ones, sweet ones and tart ones. That is part of the fun of it. When you find the perfect one in the basket, how can you not smile as you take a bite.
You can have summer strawberries year round if you like. I like to slice and freeze the summer bounty, usually with enough to last until the next season or close to it.
Of course it isn't perfect. When you freeze them they lose their crispness. Some people might be put off by the mushiness that comes from freezing them as well. In the winter months the strawberries are better off baked in a quick bread, as part of a smoothie, or topping ice cream. You get that burst of summer in the middle of the winter doldrums.
That just makes it all the better when the next season roles around though. The fresh strawberries can't be beat for things like pies, shortcake, or just to eat straight out of the basket.
So there may be fresh strawberries on the shelves for Christmas. I just walk on by. For me, there is no substitute for the summer strawberry. That way it means so much more when the local ones come to market.
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