Britain’s favourite summer fruit
Strawberries are summer in fruit form for Brits; the perfect source of seasonal desserts, scattered atop springy Victoria sponges, piled on pavlovas, whipped up in fools and, of course, dunked into buckets of cream. These little gems are just beginning to rear their glossy heads at Borough’s greengrocers and are available in all shapes and sizes, signalling—let’s hope—the start of a long hot summer.
“Gariguettes are the earliest strawberry to appear and they’re one of the most flavoursome,” says Charlie at Turnips. “They’re a famous French variety and need to be eaten as fresh as possible,” he advises. “They’re a bit on the expensive side, so they are quite extravagant, but they’re worth it. Try adding them to desserts for extreme flavour.”
Another fancy French variety is the mara des bois. Similar in size and shape to English strawberries, they’re “super sweet—sherbety, almost,” Charlie continues. “We’re also just getting the first of the English strawberries through now and we should be getting a load more from our supplier, Oakchurch Farm in Herefordshire, by the end of the week.”
Flying the flag for local produce is Chegworth Valley, where you’ll find an array of organic strawberries, all grown on its Kent farm. “Strawberry season is here, hoorah!” enthuses Vikki. “This year we are growing several varieties: buddy, finesse, marinette and red glory, which should mean that we have them in for the rest of the summer. They are all tasting very sweet and juicy, and will become even sweeter as the season develops and the weather warms up.”
Tip top condition
Lustrous and full-flavoured, these homegrown beauties are miles from the soggy fruits we often see in supermarkets. How does Chegworth keep them in such tip top condition? The answer, as ever, is with a level of care and attention that mass production simply cannot achieve.
“There’s definitely a knack to it,” says farm manager Jacob. “They must be well looked after, with the plants kept clean and tidy to ensure they are as healthy as possible, so that they produce the best tasting fruit,” he advises. “They must also be well fed and watered. We pick daily to ensure a constant supply of new strawberries are coming through.”
There are, of course, countless ways to enjoy these tasty fruits. While simply covering them with double or clotted cream and eating them whole is a tradition that’s certainly not to be sniffed at, regular Borough Market blogger Ed Smith has a slightly different take on the classic combination: a strawberry and vanilla panna cotta.
Alternatively try whipping up some cooling kulfi—a sweet and aniseedy, ice cream-style Indian treat—as in this recipe from Meera Sodha. Strawberries should not solely be reserved for sweet dishes, however: use them to bring a burst of sweetness to savoury dishes such as Ching-He Huang’s delicious shredded chicken with crunchy vegetables, yuzu dressing and pecans, or pair with pigeon in a fragrant seasonal salad.