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What’s in Season: Strawberries

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What’s in Season: Strawberries
Written by Weston Fennell | Illustration by Daniel Velasco

Albion, Caminoreal, Camarosa, and Sensationare but a handful of stars in the Fragarian milky way. A genetic cousin to the rose, Fragaria is considered an aggregate accessory fruit because each of its 200-plus seeds reside outside its skin. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Strawberries, of course. It amazes me how many fruit and vegetable species have been cultivated over centuries to accommodate the needs of specific growing conditions and regional preferences.

Depending on where they grow and for what purpose, there are more than one hundred different species. Developed by research facilities over the last sixty years, each seed is bred to meet firm-ness, flavor, shape, and size preferences. Berries that ship are chosen as much for durability as for flavor. Home gardeners and farmers growing “U-pick” strawberries have more flexibility, as the ripened fruit will be enjoyed almost immediately.

You can freeze the raw berries, make preserves, or get funky and ferment them to create vinegar.

Those juicy berries are great for snacking, but there are many ways to enjoy them beyond the first few bites. You can freeze the berries, make preserves, or get funky and ferment them to create vinegar. Two of my favorite by-products are fruit leather, made by baking pools of sweetened strawberry puree, and strawberry butter, the result of whipping sweet cream butter with overripe strawberry pulp. Think you’ve had great pancakes? Think again.

Yes, there are as many ways to use fresh strawberries as there are types of plants. Ask kids what they like about them, and you’ll get an idea of how varied the differences can be. That’s what we do at Limehouse Produce to celebrate the South Carolina growing season. We challenge elementary school students to get creative, with strawberries as their muse. The submissions range from cooking videos to papier-mâché, and include hundreds of family traditions. One boy even smuggled his parents’ recipe for strawberry daiquiris (virgin, of course). Ultimately, we reward them with strawberry popsicles and a trip to pick berries at a local farm. It’s amazing to see how children look at something that most of us see as the same. Between the growers and the kids, it’s quite a place to live.