Stawberry Celebration, Part 1

Strawberries

Strawberries abound this week in Chicago! With their short two month growing season of June and July, strawberries are at their peak right now, which has led to celebrations throughout the area of my favorite fruit.

Today the Green City Market’s Savor the Seasons Series focused on local strawberries, which included a horizontal tasting of six varieties from local farmers. And this weekend Long Grove will host its annual Strawberry Fest, my favorite suburban fest.

My adventure into the world of strawberries began early this morning at the Ellis Farm (based in Benton Harbor, Michigan) stand where they were offering three types of strawberries: Early Glo, Jewel and Honey-Eye. The friendly and well-informed producer described the taste profiles of each type of strawberry to me and also highlighted their differences. I was amazed that so many different varieties existed – I always knew the farmer’s market strawberries were a different variety than the often-bland but beautiful types found in the grocery stores, I just didn’t realize that there were so many varieties available locally.

I then moved on to the market’s strawberry tastings where I tried three more varieties grown by other farmers: Darselect, Wendy, and Allstar, all delicious in their own way.

In the end, I bought one pint each of the Early Glo and Honey-Eye from Ellis Farm but think next week I’ll try the Darselect, which I really enjoyed. While I could cook with these berries and make all sorts of delicious concoctions, I’d rather enjoy them raw just as they are.

Strawberry Flavor Profiles

Early-Glo – This was the last picking of these small, somewhat tart berries known for their overwhelming strawberry flavor and scent. They are good for eating fresh.

Honey-Eye - Large, deep red berries with a good strawberry flavor that is moderate in both sweet and tart tastes. Good for pies.

Jewel - The sweetest of the three berries with a shiny skin but lacks a pronounced strawberry flavor.

Darselect - Mild and sweet with an aromatic fragrance; one of my favorites.

Wendy - A new variety with a very fresh flavor, although I thought they tasted and looked like the generic berries found in grocery stores.

Tips & Techniques from a Green City Market Handout

- Strawberries vary in size, shape and color, with smaller berries typically having the better flavor than the larger varieties, since the latter can become wattery.

- Choose brightly-colored, plump, solid berries that still have their bright green caps attached.

- Do not wash strawberries until ready to use.

- To refrigerate, lay strawberries in a single layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet uncovered for no longer than two to three days.

- To freeze, arrange as above but in the freezer. Once frozen solid, place in an airtight plastic bag inside another bag to prevent freezer burn and off-odors.

- Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C, Potassium and Iron.

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