What do I do with… Summer strawberries

Nothing says summer more than strawberries piled high with a generous pouring of cream – but there’s a lot more to this seasonal favourite…

Wild strawberries were referenced as long ago as the first century by Roman poet and nature lover Virgil while observing bees feeding on the delicate flowers of the tiny plants. Thought to be merely ornamental, the berries have been eaten since ancient times, but not in large quantities as they were small and lacked flavour. Strawberries were first cultivated in Europe in the 1300s, but it wasn’t until 400 years later that French colonists brought back the more succulent Chilean variety, which is similar to the plump, red fruits we enjoy today.

Nutritious and packed full of vitamins, antioxidants and fibre, strawberries are a superfood and a great source of vitamin C – though they are not, strictly speaking, a berry as their name suggests as they are the only fruit with seeds on the outside.

Most often used in desserts, strawberries are delicious in salads and dressings too. Blend ripe berries together with olive oil and a little red wine vinegar, season with salt, black pepper and a little sugar to taste, then drizzle over strips of cooked chicken, avocado and mixed leaves. For a refreshing accompaniment to grilled fish, toss together quartered strawberries with chopped cucumber and combine with tangy crumbled feta, baby spinach and pecan nuts. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and you have summer on a plate.

Strawberries pair perfectly with mint too – think hot summer days and Pimms. For a wonderful salsa to serve with meat or veggie fajitas, combine strawberries with freshly chopped mint, a glug of olive oil, lime juice, salt and chilli to taste.

Next time you pick up a punnet of British strawberries, make them the star of the show.

Food stylist and home economist Linda Lee has more than 30 years’ experience developing, writing and styling recipes for some of the world’s biggest food brands. www.instagram.com/lindaleefoodstylist

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