Aussie shoppers will have noticed that fresh strawberries are in plentiful supply right now at local greengrocers and supermarkets. In fact, the fruit has come on with gusto and there's such a glut of them, that strawberry prices have come tumbling down.
My long time friend and industry colleague, Sue Dodd, Retail Support Manager at the Sydney Markets tells me that we are currently in the peak season for Queensland (which is running longer this year due to a cool winter and rain), and supplies are starting to come in from Western Australia as well.
With this in mind, it's time to visit your greengrocer and fill your market basket with bargain-priced berries. Not only will you and your family benefit, but you will be supporting Aussie strawberry growers. And that's a really good thing, I reckon.
When shopping, choose strawberries carefully. The fruit should be bright red in colour, firm-looking and plump, with a smooth appearance, like the beauties in my photograph above (bought this week). Ripe strawberries will also smell sweet and fragrant. Make sure you check the base of the punnet and make sure there is no mouldy or squished fruit.
Once you get home, pop the punnets into the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and use the fruit within five to seven days. Like raspberries, strawberries can be frozen and will keep for up to six months. To freeze strawberries, use only firm fruit with stems intact. Place the strawberries into a colander and wash them quickly under a trickle of water, then gently pat the fruit dry with kitchen towelling. Line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment and arrange the berries on the tray, allowing space between the fruit. Snap freeze the strawberries and, once they are solid, place them into zip lock freezer bags and pop them back into the freezer cabinet.
Let's now take a look at the top ways to make the most of strawberries. By the time we've finished, your kitchen is going to smell quite divine.
Strawberries can be enjoyed in a range of dishes - both sweet and savoury - and can also be used in beverages and cosmetics. In her book titled Strawberries (Hill of Content, 1991), author Pamela Allardice suggests that eating strawberries can whiten teeth and remove tartar. This is due to the acid content in the fruit. Apparently you can mash up the berries, dip your toothbrush into the puree and clean your teeth this way. 'Be sure to rinse thoroughly afterwards,' the writer suggests.
According to Ms Allardice, strawberries are also 'a refreshing and wholesome cosmetic... and can be used to cleanse and tone the skin'. For a softening strawberry face pack that has a 'regenerating effect on skin', she suggests combining one tablespoon of mashed strawberry pulp with two tablespoons of cooled mashed potatoes and a tablespoon of whole milk. Mix well to form a paste and then smooth the cream over clean, damp skin and leave it on for 30 minutes, before rinsing off with warm chamomile tea. Please note, I have not tried this myself, but Ms Allardice writes that it will 'help plump out a dehydrated complexion and leave skin satiny smooth'.
There is almost nothing nicer than snacking on a fresh, ripe strawberry. They are a great source of Vitamin C, folate and dietary fibre. I have long added the fruit to salads, and find that strawberries sit particularly well with ingredients such as cucumber, smoked chicken, prawns and asparagus.
My Peter loves eating strawberries in the traditional fashion with sugar and cream. I will often juzz up this old favourite into strawberries Romanoff or couer a la creme. Speaking of over-indulgence, let's dip whole strawberries into melted couverture chocolate. ❤❤❤❤
If you feel like unleashing the domestic god or goddess within, whip up a fluffy sponge cake and serve it with strawberries on the side, or bake an Angel Food cake and top it with a crown of fresh strawberries and cream. For biscuits, try my rendition of Paul Hollywood's pistachio shortcakes, sandwiched with strawberries and cream.
When it comes to beverages, you can make Pink Lemonade with a punnet of strawberries, a few lemons and some Angostura Bitters. Or, use almond or dairy milk with strawberries to make a creamy and refreshing frappé.
Finally, if you'd like to preserve the fruit and enjoy it for several months to follow, or share it with family and friends as a gift, make some strawberry jam. My favourite version is cooked on the stove top and infused with Grand Marnier, but I have also had great success making strawberry jam in the microwave, per this recipe from Sydney Markets.
I will be chatting about strawberries with the lovely Lish Fejer on her Sunday Brunch program on 666 ABC Radio Canberra this Sunday and hope to share a podcast of our discussion in the fullness of time.
It's your turn now, dear Good Things readers. Are strawberries abundant in your part of the world right now? What's your favourite way of using them? And have you ever tried a strawberry face mask?
Cooking and writing have been a lifelong passion.
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- Liz Posmyk
NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.