July 13, 2020

Strawberry Fields

Strawberry Fields

By our award-winning Chef, Tim Bilton

Why do Strawberries taste so good when you pick your own?

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Why is it that a strawberries taste so much nicer when you’ve picked them yourself? For a chance to try strawberries straight from stem, you only need to go as far as one of Yorkshire’s PYO strawberry fields.

Bentley Grange in Emley has a range of soft fruit including strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries. During peak season they sell Longley Farm cream, and their own produced honey, with a regular supply of fresh eggs.

Britain's strawberry season kicks off in early May, reaching its peak in June and July. And, as long as the weather holds, strawberry fans can enjoy picking these delicious red berries well into August and even September. But the strawberry picking season varies from farm to farm and depends on the weather.

Picking juicy red plump strawberries always reminds me of Wimbledon tennis, but with the pandemic the tennis is off however with social distancing strawberry picking is still on.

So one Wednesday morning, the weather had not been great and with a very active eight year old we decided that we needed to get out.

It’s wet, it’s drizzling (no it’s raining) wellies on, waterproof coat on, we set off.

Charlie’s mind (my eight year old son) thinking how many strawberries he can eat before placing them in the bucket. And myn with the Beatles "Strawberry Fields" playing in my head. But as we start the car the radio fires up with Lady gaga and Ariana Grande “Rain on Me”. Brilliant.

It is still raining as we arrive at Bentley Grange Fruit in Emley. We follow the one-way system and park the car in what is a muddy grass field.
We are met by Will, a young lad that is weighing peoples picked fruit. He asks us what we would like to pick today. Charlie like a flash “Strawberries” and raspberries, I say. He points us to a table where we pick up our buckets and bags to collect our ruby red treasures.
It’s a fantastic set up row and rows of strawberry plants about chest high and under polly tunnels.

There are a few other people and families but they are a very safe distance away. So we set about picking our haul of strawberries.

Charlie is in his element all I keep hearing is wow look at the size of that. How many have you picked Charlie? no reply... “sorry dad I just had a massive strawberry in my mouth".

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Buckets full we head back to Will and his weighing scales "Would you like any cream to go with your strawberries?” asks Will. Very good at up- selling, but it does not take me a second heartbeat and the answer is "yes" coming out of my mouth. The cream in question is not just cream, this is "Longley Farm" cream produced in Holmfirth - so how could I refuse?

For the best tasting fruit, pick it ripe.

Most fruit you buy pre-picked is harvested just before it’s ready so it will last longer in the shop. Picking your own means you are in control of quality and can pick the fruit, which has fully ripened on the plant. This allows the natural sugars to develop, which improves the flavour.

Picking Tips

Containers are provided with a bag to take away. Look round before starting to pick as the best fruit is often further away and many pickers start at the nearest point.
The availability of fruit is not guaranteed; this can vary according to the time of season, time of day, weather and number of customers. Please check they are open before you travel.
British strawberries have been available in greengrocers and supermarkets for weeks but there is nothing quite like picking your own.

Red, juicy strawberries are best eaten as soon as they’ve been picked, and one of the easiest ways you can do this is to get them at your local fruit picking farm.

Once the berry is fully coloured, pick the fruit with about one-quarter of the stem attached. Morning, when the berries are still cool, is the best time for picking strawberry fruit.

Strawberries are delicate fruit and bruise easily, so care must be taken when harvesting. Bruised fruit will degrade faster, whilst unblemished berries last longer and store better. Some varieties of strawberry, such as Surecrop, are easier to pick than others, as they readily snap off with a portion of stem attached. Others, like Sparkle, bruise easily and care must be taken when snapping the stem off. The best way to harvest strawberries is to grasp the stem between your forefinger and thumbnail, then lightly pull and twist at the same time. Let the berry roll into the palm of your hand. Gently place the fruit in a container. Continue harvesting in this manner, taking care not to overfill the container or pack the berries.

Strawberries will stay fresh for three days in refrigeration, but after that, they go downhill fast. If your strawberry harvest yielded you more berries than you can eat or give away, don’t despair, you can salvage the harvest.

Strawberries freeze beautifully and can be used later for desserts, in smoothies, chilled strawberry soup, or anything that is cooked or pureed. You can also make the berries into jam; frozen strawberry jam recipes are easy to find and simple to make.

Alpine strawberries

The tiny fruits of alpine (or wild) strawberries have a great flavour. These small, tough plants thrive in semi-shade and make useful ground cover below other crops or at the edge of a border. They produce fruit from spring to autumn. They’re often sold alongside herb plants Choose ‘Fraise des Bois’ for flavour.

The tiny strawberry is packed with vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, and more. The heart-shaped silhouette of the strawberry is the first clue that this fruit is good for you. These potent little package protects your heart, increases HDL (good) cholesterol, lowers your blood pressure, and guards against cancer.

This is a great little drink for the adults It's not just the kids that should have all the fun.

Strawberry Daiquiri

500g Fresh hulled Strawberries
150g Ice
100ml Rum
½ Juice and zest of lime

Place everything into a food processer or nutribullet and blitz everything up.

Serve in a martini glass with more ice, sliced strawberries and lime.

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