British summer in fruit form
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.
Flying the flag for local produce is Chegworth Valley, where you’ll find an array of naturally-grown strawberries from Kent. “We started picking them a few weeks ago and should have them right through until October now, if the sun holds out!” says Linda at the farm. “This year we have Red Glory, Buddy and Malling Centenary—which I can only assume is named after the place in west Kent—varieties, and they’re all tasting absolutely lovely and sweet.”
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 need to grow in a sunny site, and be fed and watered regularly,” he advises. “You have to make sure they’re well looked after, being sure to cut any runners, to get the best quality fruit.”
There are, of course, countless ways to enjoy these tasty treats. 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 and demo chef 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.