I remember the first time I went strawberry picking with my mother. She was so patient, letting me gather far more berries than we could ever eat. When we got home, my grandmother was waiting for us in the kitchen. She and my mother immediately went to work sorting the fruit into three piles: berries to be used in the next few days, berries we’d make into jam—–a combination of slightly underripe and overripe fruit—-and berries we’d freeze. I was amazed at their efficiency, they didn’t say a word but the message was clear, these little delicacies, only in season for a short period of time, would be optimized and enjoyed by the family throughout the coming year. That night we tucked into the most amazing strawberry shortcake, one that I measure against all others some 40 years later.
Choose bright red, fully ripe, fragrant berries that have fresh-looking green tops. Larger berries often have hollow centers, which means less flavor and juice. A stained strawberry carton may be a sign that some of the berries are overripe.
Strawberries are fragile and bruise or mold easily. They are best stored in a single layer on a tray lined with paper towel in the refrigerator. Try to use them within a day or two. Wait to wash strawberries until just before you eat them.
Strawberries add a burst of color and flavor to green and fruit salads. They are wonderful eaten by hand, served with cream, sprinkled on yogurt or cereal or baked in muffins, pies or crumbles. A sprinkling of black pepper draws out the flavor.