Red Delicious

Springtime is Strawberry time


Each year in late April I venture to my favorite farmers market with a single question: are the strawberries here yet? With strawberries, the rewards of eating local, seasonal produce are immediate and obvious. Ruby red and bursting with sweetness, they might be a different fruit entirely from the ones you find in Styrofoam trays.

  • Strawberry season in North Carolina is typically late April through mid-May. It may last anywhere from two to three weeks to more than a month, depending on weather.
  • Even at farmers markets, berries from California are often sold when local strawberries are not available. If produce is not marked as local, ask where it came from.
  • Strawberries are delicate and perishable. Always refrigerate. Buy the ripest berries available if you plan to use within a day or two — otherwise choose a container where not all berries are deep red.
  • Can't wait for next year to get to your local farmers market or pick-your-own field? Out of season, Florida strawberries are a better bet than California strawberries — they travel just one to two days instead of weeks.

 Spring Strawberry Salad

 (serves 4)
3/4 cup fresh strawberries, sliced lengthwise
1 head Boston or Bibb lettuce
1/2 cup baby carrots
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup walnuts

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon coarse ground sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Edible fresh flowers such as violets or nasturtiums for garnish

Mix dressing in a bowl. In a salad bowl, combine salad ingredients, layering so that strawberries, red onions, and walnuts are on top. Sprinkle flower petals over salad, if desired. Add dressing and toss, just before serving.

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries and Mint Leaves

1 pint fresh whole strawberries, rinsed and dried
1-2 dozen fresh whole mint leaves, rinsed and dried
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla  

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Melt chocolate chips in microwave or double boiler, taking care not to burn them. Dip strawberries and mint leaves, one by one, in melted chocolate. Place on waxed paper and refrigerate for at least one half hour.

Strawberries are best on the same day they are dipped, but will keep for up to two days.

 Fresh Strawberry Gratin

 (serves 4 to 6)

Fast and easy to prepare and elegant in presentation, this recipe is great for entertaining. One pint of fresh berries equals about one cup of fruit. Avoid using a metal pie pan, as it may react with the acidity of the fruit and leave a metallic flavor.

4 cups fresh strawberries, whole or halved lengthwise
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp Kirsch, vanilla, or hazelnut liqueur (optional)
Pinch table salt

3 slices white sandwich bread, each torn into quarters
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
Pinch ground cinnamon

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss fruit gently with sugar, liqueur or vanilla (if using), and salad in medium glass or ceramic bowl and transfer to 9-inch glass or ceramic pie dish.
  2. Pulse bread, butter, sugar, and cinnamon in food process or blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about ten 1-second pulses. Sprinkle crumbs evenly over fruit and bake until crumbs are golden brown and fruit is hot, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack 5 minutes.

Serve with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Fluffy Sour Cream Crepes with Fresh Strawberries

 (makes about 12 crepes)
Intimidated by the thought of preparing paper-thin, easily scorchable crepes? This recipe is nearly foolproof. Sour cream and baking soda allow the crepes to stay light and fluffy while imparting the durability of a thicker pancake.

1 pint fresh strawberries
1 tbsp sugar

Garnish (optional)
Lightly sweetened whipped cream
Maple syrup

2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 sour cream or yogurt (Greek style works best)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup flour
2 tbsp butter, melted

Combine flour, salt, and baking soda, mixing thoroughly. Beat eggs well, then beat in milk, yogurt, butter, and dry ingredients. Cover and let stand for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, slice strawberries and toss with sugar.

Heat a nonstick skillet and film it with butter or shortening. Heat until water droplets sizzle when sprinkled on surface. Pour in several tablespoons of batter, the quickly tilt the pan so that the batter spreads evenly across the pan. Cook on medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or until the bottom is lightly browned and the edges lift easily from the pan. Flip with spatula. Cook the second side for a few minutes—it will brown in spots. Remove to a warm plate and repeat with remaining batter. If crepes begin to stick, add more shortening to the pan.

Add strawberry mixture to each crepe, rolling lengthwise. Serve with fresh whipped cream or maple syrup, if desired.