The summer has casually strolled into July without much fuss and has come bearing gifts. Strawberry season, the most eagerly anticipated few weeks of summer is upon us, and with it, the perfect opportunity to overindulge in all things strawberry. It is true that we have access to imported strawberries year round, trucked in from California and Mexico, but these offerings literally pale in comparison to the ephemeral beauty, fragrance and luscious taste of ripe picked local fruit. And now is the time to freeze down a bunch of local strawberries to use for smoothies, milkshakes and ice-cream in the fall and winter.
This is the perfect time of year to plan a strawberry social. That old Victorian tradition that allowed for the showing off of new summer hats and crisp linen suits can be made informal and fun and just bring a bunch of friends and family together to enjoy best strawberries Ontario has to offer.
The perfume and allure of fresh local strawberries is unmistakable. If you wander down the produce aisle at Fiesta Farms, just follow your nose. For an astonishing comparison, hold a box of local berries close and inhale. Lovely. Now do the same with an imported box. Needless to say, the difference in taste is the same.
So beloved is this harbinger of summer that people from PEI to Victoria pay homage to the strawberry, with towns like Stoufville holding an annual strawberry festival and church banquet halls throughout Ontario hosting strawberry socials.
If you happened to miss out on the local celebrations of all things strawberry, don’t sweat it; you can always host your own little strawberry social, and invite your friends over. Even better, make it a pot-luck! As an outing for the whole family you could take the scenic drive to a local farm that allows you to pick your own. Downey’s farm just north of Brampton allows you to bring your own container and pick as much as you can carry for only $2.35 a pound, and Richardsons Farm and Market in Dunnville grows at least seven varieties; Sapphire, Sable. Wendy, Summer Rose, St-Pierre, Valley Sunset and Albion, each with their own unique profiles. Do you know the difference? Why not try a selection of all of them and have a strawberry tasting at your social?
If you’re not sure what to serve up at your strawberry social, why not try something new. Strawberries go great with creamy goat cheese, are wonderful on a salad of fresh spinach and pecans, and of course, for desert, you have to have at least one piece of shortcake or strawberry tea bread.
Here are two delicious recipes from our friends at OntarioFarm Fresh that will get you started. But act quickly, the summer will be gone before you know it, and you’ll have to wait another year for this, the most social season!
Strawberry and Spinach Salad
2 cups (500 ml) spinach, rinsed, dried and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup (250 ml) sliced Ontario strawberries
1/2 cup (125 ml) vegetable oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) red wine vinegar
1/3 cup (80 ml) granulated sugar
1/4 tsp (1 ml) paprika
1 tbsp (15 ml) poppy seeds
In a large bowl, toss together the spinach and strawberries. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, sugar, paprika and poppy seeds. Pour over the spinach and strawberries and toss to coat.
Strawberries and Chevre Romanoff
10 oz/300 g Ontario chevre (soft, unripened goat cheese), at room temperature
1/4 cup (50 ml) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50 ml) 35% whipping cream
2 tbsp (25 ml) orange liqueur
3 cup (750 ml) sliced fresh Ontario strawberries
3 tbsp (45 ml) granulated sugar
1 tbsp (15 ml) pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp (7 ml) grated orange rind
In a bowl and using electric hand mixer, beat together cheese, sugar, cream and liqueur until smooth and fluffy. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until well chilled.
Strawberries: Meanwhile, in a bowl, stir together strawberries, sugar, vanilla and orange rind until well coated.
Divide cheese mixture onto plates and top with strawberries.