What's Fresh, Toronto? Strawberries!
Even though June 21 officially marked the beginning of summer, it's only when certain flavours begin making their way into my meals that it really feels right. Ontario strawberries are one of these foods, and they have started popping up at grocery stores and farmers' markets across the city (and now all markets that have been affected by the strike will re-open).
Their season begins in mid-June, and it peaks in early- to mid-July. The season really only lasts about 6-8 weeks, so it's time to start thinking picking up some of these bite-sized heart-shaped beauties.
Strawberries are part of the rose family, along with raspberries, blackberries, apples, and pears. The modern cultivated strawberries we know today have been around since about the 17th Century. The variety Fragaria Ă ananassa has replaced the popular and more tasty wild varieties of the berries. The root of the name Fragaria comes from the Latin fraga and refers to the fruit's wonderful smell, and the name 'strawberry' comes from the 'straying' erratic habit of the plant.
Now what to do with these little red and juicy pleasure balls once you get them home? The easiest (and my favourite) option is wash, slice and enjoy. You can even add a little sugar if your sweet tooth is really aching. In England cream is the traditional accompaniment, sour cream is used in other places in Europe. In Italy and France red wine is most popular.
If you feel like getting more elaborate you can try baking a pie coupling them with Ontario Rhubarb, adding them to a fresh salad, or making a vinaigrette. Or what about a strawberry salsa made with mint, onion and balsamic vinegar to be served along grilled fish? And how can we forget the quintessential strawberry shortcake? Or any cake for that matter. Strawberries always make a great summer garnish.
I like to enjoy Ontario berries all year long. So I spread the berries on a baking sheet, pop them into the freezer to individually freeze them. Then I bag them and come fall I make jam. Or you can use them in muffins, make coulis or compotes, or just add them to yogurt for breakfast.
So whether you pick them yourself or pick them up at the market or grocery store, get them soon and welcome the summer growing season with open arms (and mouths).
As the growing season continues, I'll be keeping track of what is becoming available each step of the way, and will share my findings in this here farm fresh feature "What's Fresh, Toronto?" Stay tuned for future installments.
Lead photo by the author. Additional photo by Arieh Singer.
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