Even though we can buy strawberries throughout the year, nothing compares to sweet, home-grown varieties which ripen in June and remain in-season through to mid-August.
Berries should be enjoyed soon after picking - if ripe and sweet, all you have to do then is hull them and tuck in. If you don't get a chance to pick-you-own at a farm, keep an eye out in the shops for strawberries with a sweet aromatic scent - they'll have the most flavour.
Wash and hull soft summer berries just before you're going to eat them - if rinsed beforehand, they'll only go soggy and lose their shape. If they're reasonably clean, a quick wipe with kitchen paper should do the trick.
Over-chilling tends to rein-in their natural flavour - you'll find that they have a fuller flavour when served at room temperature.
Firm-fleshed Elsanta strawberries are the most popular variety sold in our shops - they have a longer shelf life than many other varieties, which is why supermarkets like to stock them. Other varieties include Bolero and Symphony, which have an extended season.
For succulent berries, it's worth visiting a grower and exploring different varieties on offer. Keep an eye out for the distinctive flavours of Florence, Rosie and Cambridge berries, to name but three varieties on offer at different times of the British growing season
IN THE KITCHEN
There's very little you can't do with strawberries - from succulent salads, indulgent cakes, ice creams and gateaux...The list is endless.
For a simple fruit salad, lightly sugar strawberries, add a few ripped mint leaves and a dash of orange liqueur. Leave on one side for an hour or two - until the fruit has made its own delicious, scented syrup. Serve with ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.
Balsamic vinegar's rich-caramel-like flavour makes a good match with strawberries - for a spicy kick, try grinding over a dusting of black pepper too.
No cream tea would be complete without a pot of strawberry jam. Make a big batch after you've visited a farm and brought back plentiful supplies. You'll need to add quite a bit of lemon juice (a natural setting agent containing pectin - a setting agent) when making jam, because strawberries, on their own, don't make well-set jam.
The berries don't freeze well and lose their shape on defrosting. A better bet is to puree the fruit and use it in mousses, soufflés and ice cream.
DID YOU KNOW
There are about 500 cultivated strawberry varieties - quite a choice...