Sunday 21 December 2014

16 tips for making the most of Irish summer strawberries

Chef and author Rozanne Stevens lends advice when choosing, using and eating Irish strawberries this season.

Rozanne Stevens

Published 08/07/2014 | 12:54

Warmer weather has caused strawberries to ripen early
Warmer weather has caused strawberries to ripen early

Enjoying Irish strawberries in season rather than imported ones is a good way to reduce our carbon footprint.

Strawberries are predominantly imported from America, Spain and Holland. This clocks up 300,000 to 400,000 food miles per year. These berries are also picked when they are underripe to travel better, so they won't have the same sweet flavour.

Irish strawberries will be at least four to five days fresher and most of the berry farms are very close to the depots, again cutting down on transport. Plus, we can grow softer, juicier varieties as they don't have to be hard in order to travel far. Unlike some of the imported berries with that hard, white tip, you know the kind I mean.

Top Tips for Strawberries

  • Strawberries make a terrific teeth whitener. The natural acid helps remove stains. Mash two strawberries together with a teaspoon of bread soda and massage over teeth. Rinse well, then brush as normal.

 

  • Strawberries freeze very well and work very well in desserts, compotes and smoothies. This is also a cost effective way to enjoy berries out of season.

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  • Strawberries do not ripen any further once they've been picked, so it's best to buy fully ripe ones and use them within a few days of purchase.

 

  • Avoid choosing strawberries that are dull in colour, have green or yellow splotches or mould on the skin, or have berry stains on the bottom of the box; these are signs that the berries have passed their peak ripeness.

 

  • Seek out berries that are grown locally or are sold in farmers' markets, as they tend to be fresher and they're less likely to be bruised.

 

  • Perfectly ripe berries should be richly red, plump and uniform in colour.

 

  • Be sure to discard any mushy or overripe strawberries, since they may cause others to spoil more quickly.

 

  • Don't rinse the berries until you're ready to eat them – washing them ahead of time can lead to spoilage.Store and chill strawberries in the refrigerator or freeze them.

 

  • I like them at room temperature when I eat them so take them out of the fridge 20 minutes before serving.

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  • To freeze strawberries, spread them out in a single layer on a plate or cookie sheet and put them in the freezer until just frozen.

 

  • Once they are frozen, transfer the berries to resealable freezer bags, label with the date, and return them to the freezer where they can be kept for up to a year.

 

  • Many strawberry growers recommend not washing strawberries as the natural acid mantle of the berry deters bacterial growth. And soggy strawberries go off.

 

  • But if you want to, rinse with cold water and leave the leafy cap intact. Removing the cap before washing will cause the berries to absorb water.

 

  • Using a paring knife, remove the leafy cap and the white "hull."

 

  • If you want to make strawberry jam, underripe or just ripe fruit works better than overripe.

 

  • Jam sugar with added pectin will help your strawberry jam set better. Strawberries are very low in pectin so they can be difficult to turn into jam.

 

  • Strawberries are a very kid friendly fruit, so if you're struggling to get your kids to eat fruit, keep them busy in the kitchen these school holidays with some fruity strawberry recipes.

Recipe: Biltong Nachos with Strawberry Avocado Salsa 

Recipe: Monica's Berry Baileys Meringue Roulade 

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