Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Strawberries are in Season!

Everyone has a certain time of year for their favorite foods, for me it is 365 days actually. Each season brings a new taste sensation and a different miracle in terms of how nature feeds us. With the advent of industrial agriculture and the airplanes that fly food around the world, our modern culinary practices have lost the art of cooking and eating seasonally. Nature always provides the best for what we need in terms of being in harmony with our surroundings. Eating seasonally is probably the easiest and most profound step you can take in moving towards a more sustainable life style. The extra added benefit? YUMMY FOOD. Late May and through Early June is peak Strawberry season in the Northern Hemisphere. What has been passing for strawberries in the grocers produce section since January, are lovely decorative items, but the jewels coming out of ground now are really worth the wait.

Strawberries, according to the botanists who are ever so picky, are not really berries, but an extended part of the plant stamen. Now this could get tricky, but it is sort of the stamen turned inward with the seeds on the outside. Who cares, really, they are fantastic. Strawberries are part of the rose family and our modern varieties have apparently been cultivated since the 1700's in where else, France. The berries apparently made their way to Britain thanks to William the Conqueror, who was passing on the gift left by the Romans. Strawberries are grown in all 50 states in the US, and wild varieties are found all over the world. When I was at my first Slow Food Terra Madre in 2008, I met these amazing people from Romania who create preserves out of a rare Romanian forest strawberry that is only in season for 2 weeks. Guess what they are doing during those two weeks? Besides eating so many berries they are going to burst, they make a series of jams and preserves that have international Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity status

The best way to enjoy Strawberries is to grow them  yourself, The site Grow Organic is from an organic seed and plant source in Grass Valley California, they send out strawberry plants through the mail if you can't get there, and have a YouTube channel that is really great. The second best is to go to a local organic grower and either pick yourself (aka U Pick) check your state's agritourism sites for options or Local Harvest for options near you. For all the health information on Strawberries listen to the podcast. It is important to eat organic, as conventional strawberries have residues of 54 pesticides, most do really nasty things to your health and the health of those who pick them, not to mention the birds, bees, soil and water.

Here are some ideas for Strawberries

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Black (or Pink) Pepper

2 cups fresh strawberry slices, 2 Tbsp of sugar or honey, 2 tsp high quality Balsamic Vinegar or Balsamic vinegar reduction, freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place berries and sugar in a glass mixing bowl, drizzle vinegar over berries, allow to sit for about 15 minutes. Ground Black (or Pink) Pepper.

This is fantastic on vanilla or honey flavored ice cream, added to Greek yogurt, or placed on short cake for a new twist for a classic summer dessert.

Strawberry Vinaigrette 

I have found that making a basic salad dressing with Safflower oil and Apple Cider Vinegar with a touch of honey and a couple of strawberries added, is amazing. The following recipe is a take off on Papaya Seed dressing, and is really delicious! 

2 cups frozen or fresh organic strawberry slices. 6 tbsp fresh lime juice, 2 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar, 1/8 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Blend in a blender or with a hand blender until smooth. Excellent on Spinach Salad with some feta, sliced red onions and walnuts.

Roasted Strawberries 

Are, well, amazing. Slice the tops off of the berries and place sliced side down on a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until the berries burst, you can then eat them alone, or dress up with things like balsamic vinegar syrup, ground black pepper, maple syrup, brown sugar.

Enjoy what this current season has to offer!

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