Strawberries

 Strawberries

I think it's true to say that English strawberries are the best in the world, available only in June and July. The season is very short, of course, but my advice is not to think about them at any other time.

Our red, ripe strawberries are in quite a different league to the imported varieties that continue to turn up in the winter months. If you want to really enjoy a feast of strawberries, my advice is to drive off somewhere either to pick your own or buy direct from the grower, as they never, ever taste the same over-chilled from the supermarket. But if you're forced to buy them there, let your nose be your guide: the plastic boxes have air holes, so make sure the strawberries have a strong, ripe scent, which indicates a good flavour.

Strawberry know-how: To get the most pleasure out of strawberries, it's best to know how to treat them before you eat them. This means a bit of TLC, because their sheer beauty can be lost by bad handling.Try to pick your own. Eat them the same day or store in a cool place with the hulls intact. Fridges and strawberries don't like each other. Low temperatures rob them of fragrance and flavour and somehow transfer the flavour to other ingredients in the fridge (uncovered milk or cream can quickly absorb strawberry flavours). Please don't wash them. They tend to absorb water, which makes them mushy, so this also means it's not a good idea to buy them after heavy rain. Just wipe them with damp kitchen paper .

Leave the hulls in as long as possible and only remove them an hour or so before eating. If you're forced to put them in the fridge, try sugared strawberries, which involves slicing them in half, sprinkling with caster sugar and storing them in a tightly lidded polythene box. During storage the juices will mingle with the sugar and form a lovely strawberry-flavoured syrup.

Remove from the fridge about an hour before serving.

 
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