Fresh Primer: Strawberries

Honeoye Early Season Oregon Strawberries

If you ask ten people at random to name their favorite berry, eight of them will say, “strawberries of course.” And who’s to argue? In the height of Northwest strawberry season, it’s hard to imagine anything tasting better than these juicy, incredibly sweet, powerfully flavorful berries. They are simply perfection.
Seascape Early Season Oregon Strawberries

Strawberries seem to benefit most from the climate of the Northwest. Our local varieties are chosen not so much for their ability to ship well but for their flavor. They are usually not as large or as glamorous looking as California strawberries, but their intense red color is a near guarantee that they were picked fully ripe and will taste as nature intended.

Sign for Hood Early Season Oregon Strawberries

Season

Commercial strawberry growers have timed their selections to ripen at about the same time that kids are released from school, thus insuring themselves an adequate supply of pickers. So the commercial season begins around June 1st, depending on the weather, and ends around July 15th. Gardeners can extend the season considerably by planting continual and late bearing varieties.

Selection

Northwest strawberry varieties are more perishable that those shipped in from out of state. They are fully juicy and will turn to mush if handled roughly. Look for bright red berries with no signs of oozing. Conversely, avoid shriveled berries or any with dry, browning stems. The fragrance of ripe berries should be discernible. Pick them yourself if at all possible or buy them from a local grower. Above all, make sure that you are purchasing Northwest berries. Grocery stores sometimes carry non-local berries even after local berries are available.

Varieties encountered at Portland Farmers Market in early June of 2009 were Hood (sweetest, highly perishable, very short season), Seascape, and Honeoye. Additional varieties will arrive as the season progresses.

Storage

Refrigerate strawberries, covered with plastic wrap, as soon as you get them home. Do not wash or hull them until shortly before you intend to eat them. If they are very fresh, they will keep from two to five days.

Preparation

Rinse strawberries under cold running water, and then remove the stem and hull in one operation. The easiest way I have found to do this is to use a curved grapefruit knife; insert the knife along the edge of the stem, then change the angle somewhat and lift it out along with the stem and hull.

Cooking

There’s strawberry jam and strawberry sauce and even strawberry soup, but if you really want to eat strawberries at their best, eat them raw.

Hood Early Season Oregon Strawberries

Great Partners

Almonds, anise, apricots, balsamic vinegar, bananas, basil, Beaujolais, black currant, black pepper, Brie, brown sugar, caramel, celery, Champagne, cinnamon, Cointreau, cream, coconut, cognac, cream cheese, crème fraîche, Curacao, camembert, cherry, chocolate (dark and white), coffee, cranberry, egg, fig, Grand Marnier, grapefruit, guava, Kirsch, honey, kiwi, lemon, lettuce, licorice, lime, mango, maple syrup, mascarpone, mint, orange, parmesan, passion fruit, peach, pineapple, port, raspberry, rhubarb, sambuca, sherry, sour cream, star fruit, tequila, toast, vanilla, and yogurt.

Additional Pairings

LunaCafe Recipes

NOTE PNP = Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking

Resources

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Comments

  1. says

    Aloha! Yum, I can almost eat the strawberries off the screen! We have an organic grower down there that specializes in strawberries that are beyond compare. I can’t wait for our market to begin on the 19 because I have a whole host of recipes lined up for those nuggets. I think I will try your Crimson Rhubarb Mouse with Strawberry Gin Sauce first. Take care!
    Dana Zia
    [rq=3943,0,blog][/rq]The Most Devilish Cookies

    • sms bradley says

      Hi Dana! I’m having difficulty leaving rhubarb behind and moving into strawberry land. But the strawberries are so luscious, I must make the leap this weekend. Thanks for stopping by! :-)

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