Who doesn't associate Irish strawberries with summer?
Now that it's June, Irish strawberries are finally coming back into season, so we've compiled our seasonal ingredient guide to help make sure that you get the best out of this delicious fruit while it's available.
Strawberries have been very popular throughout Europe for centuries, with the first strawberry garden said to have been bred in France in the late 18th century. Before that, strawberries were used by monks for their supposed medicinal properties. The classic combination of strawberries and cream was created for British monarch Henry VII, who was supposedly extremely fond of the berry.
Strawberries are a great source of vitamins C and K, as well as fibre, folic acid, manganese and potassium. They also contain lots of phytonutrients and flavonoids which help to give them their bright red colour.
What to look for when buying strawberries
Once strawberries come into season, our favourite way to get our hands on a punnet is to buy Wexford strawberries from roadside sellers. They're usually super fresh, jam-packed with flavour and reasonably priced. There's something about Wexford strawberries that really heralds the start of summer for us and the flavour of these strawberries is usually incomparable with other varieties.
If you're buying from a store or market, always try to buy locally grown strawberries, as they will only be picked when they're ripe, ensuring maximum flavour. You also want to look out for bright red berries with little white around the stem or in the centre of the berry as this means that the strawberries were picked when they were underripe. While you might have a vision of a perfectly-shaped, plump strawberry in your mind, size and shape don't really matter. Regardless of whether the strawberries you're buying are giant or tiny (smaller ones are usually a tad sweeter), colour is the main point you should take notice of when selecting your fruit.
Storing and preparing strawberries
Strawberries are quite hardy, so they do well at both room temperature and in the refrigerator. We recommend keeping them at room temperature on your kitchen counter if you plan to use them within the next day or two, but stick them in the fridge if you plan on using them any later than that.
When storing strawberries, it's best to keep them in a container lined with kitchen paper to absorb any excess moisture and try to keep them in a single layer so that they don't bruise. Unless you buy organic strawberries, they've usually been sprayed with a lot of pesticides so it's important to wash them before you eat them. However, strawberries are like little sponges, so they will absorb water when washed. Only wash the strawberries you want to eat and wash them just before you eat them.
How to use strawberries
When strawberries are in season, they're delicious to eat as they are, perhaps with a dollop of fresh cream or yoghurt. If you want to use strawberries in a summery recipe, we have plenty of recipes on the site, like Martin Kaujiter's Michelin-starred marinated strawberries with rice purée and tarragon. We also love these strawberry shortcake cookies from The Dublin Cookie Company.