Thanks to the wan strawberries sold at supermarkets, there are still a lot of people who don’t get what all the fuss is about when strawberries appear for their brief, glorious window each spring. And if you’ve eaten mostly conventionally grown strawberries, which are cultivated for their sturdiness, size, and eye appeal instead of flavor, your lack of enthusiasm is understandable. Those hard, white-centered, watery simulacrums are no substitute for the ripe, local berries you find at the farm.
How to find, buy, and store your spring strawberries:
- Go to the source. Farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and CSA boxes are the most reliable places to get primo peak-season strawberries.
- Think small. Forget supermarket beauty standards. The most flavorful strawberries are tiny compared to what you see in plastic clamshells.
- Give them a sniff. Ripe strawberries are wonderfully sweet and almost floral in the aroma. If you don’t detect that perfume, move on. It’s worth the hunt: Ripe in-season strawberries don’t even need sugar to be a perfect springtime dessert unto themselves (topped with, perhaps, a dollop of creme fraiche).
- U Pick. Many farms will let you pick your own strawberries. Typically, your strawberries will be cheaper if you buy them this way (you’re saving the farm the labor of picking them, after all) and you can ensure they are handled with appropriate TLC. Plus, it’s a fun afternoon for the whole family.
- Ask questions. Seek out organic farms or those that don’t use pesticides–strawberries are at the top of the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen,” which lists the crops most likely to have been sprayed.
- Handle with care. It’s best to eat strawberries soon after buying them, but if you need to keep them for a few days, there are ways to maximize their freshness. First of all, don’t wash them until just before you want to eat them. Strawberries absorb water, which makes them mold faster. Line the bottom a large, shallow container with paper towels and arrange the strawberries in a single layer with room around each for air to circulate. If you have more berries, you can top this first layer with another paper towel and more berries but stop there. Any more weight can crush fragile berries.
Once you’ve found a good source, you may find yourself wanting to buy them in bulk by the flat. That’s good thinking. Here are plenty of ways to use up all those precious berries.
Strawberries’ floral notes pair well with the bright, grassy bite of fresh mint in this recipe for Strawberries in Minted Honey Syrup. These sweet and glossy berries are just the thing drizzled over ice cream, pound cake, or angel food cake.
Baked Strawberry Dumplings have more than a passing resemblance to a cobbler, except these are even easier to bake and eat. If you’ve got some vanilla ice cream hanging around, add a scoop. Strawberries do love cream in all its forms.
Light-as-air meringues are exactly the type of dessert we crave this time of year. These Strawberry Meringue Pillows are sure to please. Pavlovas are just like meringues, only bigger. These cake-size confections were created in New Zealand to honor Russian ballerina Anna Pavlov, and this one is indeed as elegant as a dancer. This Citrus and Strawberry Pavlova is a white cloud topped with eye-catching strawberries, tangerine segments, and sliced kumquats.
Strawberry ice cream is an all-time favorite for a reason, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make variations in the name of culinary experimentation. For a sophisticated take, try this Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Ice Cream.
A Strawberry Tart is as pretty as it is perfect. Berry halves are glossed with guava jelly in this simple but stunning recipe.
Strawberries like to party. Invite yours to let their hair down in this Strawberry Key Lime Gin Fizz, a spring-appropriate twist on a classic cocktail.
Tahini, not dairy, gives this luscious Strawberry Smoothie its richness and heft. A pinch of salt and a dose of cinnamon give it a boost of flavor.
Strawberry Salsas & Salads
Sweet, juicy berries step in for tomatoes in this Farmers’ Market Strawberry Salsa. Sure, this sweet and spicy mixture is nice with chips, but it’s even better as a simple sauce for grilled fish or seared scallops. This Strawberry Tarragon Salsa leans away from traditional (read: spicy) salsa ingredients like jalapenos, but is also a good, quick sauce for fish or pork.
Strawberries’ sweetness is a welcome addition to salads. Here, they are blended into the dressing for a Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette. If you don’t want to get your blender dirty, you could use a bottled vinaigrette and add some sliced strawberries to your salad for a similar effect.
Have you ever had a Bacon-Strawberry Grilled Cheese? Didn’t think so. This unusual combo might just become the new go-to grilled cheese sandwich you never knew you needed. Vegetarians can make this Strawberry Balsamic Grilled Cheese instead.
As the days get warm, chilled soup makes for an excellent and refreshing first course or light lunch. This Cold Strawberry and Tomato Soup is a little like gazpacho–with a sweet twist.
Pain Perdu is French for lost bread and it refers to a dish much like good old French toast that allows frugal home cooks to rescue stale bread that might otherwise be thrown away, or lost. This highly unconventional recipe for Eggplant Pain Perdu, Molasses Glazed Strawberries, Smoked Butter, and Chicken Skin calls for thick eggplant slices to stand in for the usual bread. It’s definitely a chef-inspired and ambitious dish, but if you’ve gone crazy for all things strawberry, give it a try.
This Savory Strawberry Chutney, inspired by Indian spices, livens up an otherwise plain grilled chicken or pork chop. It also pairs well with mild, creamy cheeses.
Strawberries for Breakfast
Strawberry Ricotta Pancakes make for a more sustaining morning meal than their standard pancake counterparts thanks to all that protein in the cheese. They are equally delicious and come together quickly for busy mornings.
On the surface, it doesn’t sound like it would work, but strawberries have a definite affinity for black pepper. We’ll prove it with this Strawberry-Black Pepper Jelly.
This Easy Strawberry Wine Cake gets its unique flavor from the wine and a wonderfully moist texture from an old-fashioned secret ingredient you probably remember from childhood. Strawberry puree gives it a lovely blushing hue.
Strawberry Jam is a major upgrade from jelly on your morning toast. This easy version is a refrigerator-style jam–no special skills or equipment required. Looking for more ways to preserve your bumper crop so the many splendors of the strawberry season can go on a while longer? Here are 16 ways to put up strawberries.