'Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless, God never did'. Dr William Butler
History of British Strawberries
What is more evocative of a British summer than strawberries and cream? Just when that happened is anyone's guess. The earliest mention of the luscious fruit was in Roman times around 200BC. There are many mentions of strawberries in medieval Great Britain when newlyweds enjoyed strawberries, borage and soured cream for their wedding breakfast believing them to be an aphrodisiac. The heart-shaped fruit has long been a symbol of purity, passion, and healing and continues to be so.
The strawberry is but a brief time, from early June through to August. The arrival of poly tunnel grown fruits has extended that time - good news for those who enjoy the fruits, but perhaps not for those whose countryside views are scarred by plastic.
By far the best strawberries to buy have to be from a local producer. A day out strawberry picking can be fun; supermarkets may sell the cotton wool impostors cheaply, but the flavour is incomparable to home grown fruits. Look out for PYO (Pick Your Own) signs which begin to appear across the country in July.
How to Choose British Strawberries
- Buy unblemished fruit with bright green hulls. Wash and handle them gently and as little as possible to avoid bruising.
- Only remove the hull after washing.
- Always let the fruit come to room temperature before eating. Better still, an hour in the sunshine before serving will dramatically improve the flavour.
The Health Benefits of British Strawberries
- Five strawberries provide more vitamin C than an entire orange.
- Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese, as well as folic acid, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B5, vitamin B6, copper, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Strawberries contain significant levels of phytonutrients and antioxidants which help to fight free radicals These antioxidant properties are believed to be linked to what makes the bright fruits red.
- Strawberries were used medicinally to help with digestive ailments, discoloured teeth and skin irritations.
How to Serve British Strawberries
One of the simplest, best and easy ways to serve strawberries are, of course, with cream. (I like thick double cream, clotted is also delicious. There are, however many more recipes both savoury and sweet. Of course, if the day out picking your own gives a glut of fruit, jam is a way to preserve the flavours of summer for the cold, dark, winter months.
Great Strawberry Recipes
British Strawberry Varieties
- ELSANTA: Still the most loved strawberry in Britain because of its long cropping season and excellent taste.
- DRISCOLL CAMARILLO: Excellent flavour and is now produced on a large scale.
- AVA: Is a premium Scottish strawberry renowned for its flavour.
- ENGLISH ROSE: This new premium variety is notable for its unusual and outstanding taste, reminiscent of orange zest.
- EVE'S DELIGHT: Eve's Delight combines juicy flavour with excellent shelf life.
- JUBILEE: Jubilee was developed and first sold in 2002 and has since established itself as one of the best-flavoured varieties of all.
- SONATA: A large, firm, well-flavoured mid-season variety.
- RED PRINCESS: heart shaped sweet flavour berry.
- SWEET EVE: Excellent yields and good flavour.
- RED GLORY: Sweet juicy fruit throughout the season.
- EVIE: With a distinctive flavour and paler fruit, Evie goes particularly well with ice-cream.
- DRISCOLL JUBILEE: Recognised as one of the best UK strawberries eating varieties.