Strawberries

strawberries scallop ceviche with strawberries and rhubarb Gramercy Tavern

Scallop Ceviche with Strawberries and Rhubarb at Gramercy Tavern New York City

Written by Mary Ellen Griffin (myMEGusta.com)

It is early July, and peak strawberry season in Connecticut is winding down. Farm markets have been bursting with baskets of fragile red berries, this being the only time of year when it is really worth eating these little delicacies.

Strawberries and rhubarb are a classic spring time combination, and a gorgeous execution of this was found recently on the seasonal tasting menu at Gramercy Tavern http://www.gramercytavern.com , a ceviche of tiny scallops made with rhubarb juice and perfect, sweet red strawberry chunks.

Recently, one farm market had dozens of baskets lined up like a little Red Army, some of them full of shapely berries with a slight orange hue, others a potent maroon, probably from two separate patches planted with two separate varieties. The choice to come to this home was the maroon beauties.

 

A happy memory of living in New Jersey (The Garden State) was picking strawberries at Stultz Farm http://www.stultsfarm.com , wisely planted with sequentially ripening varieties. Every year, a small, exquisitely sweet berry was among them. Sadly (not so sadly for myMEGusta, who got more of the superior berries), most consumers went for the larger, less fragile, easier to pick type.

It is unclear where strawberries originated, as they have history both in the Western Hemisphere and Europe/Africa before Columbus sailed to the New World. Both natives share the same genome, but manifested very differently over time.

Strawberries Arica Chile covered market 2018

Covered Market in Arica Chile

Cultivated in Europe since Roman times, the strawberry we know and love today was bred in Brittany, France, in the 18th century, a cross between a native European variety grown locally and Chilean beach strawberries.

Of course, strawberries are among the most photogenic of fruits, and therein lies a problem. Their beauty can be part of breeding that turned them from a succulent treat to Styrofoam monsters arriving by air. So, you have to be a little skeptical when they show up on a menu, no matter how wonderful the dish, way, way off season. That’s not to say it is impossible to get a good one flown in; it’s just unlikely, as the tough guys are among the prettiest and least flavorful.

 

Strawberries Pere Gras strawberries with creme Chantilly Grenobles France 2017

Strawberry Dessert at Pere Gras Grenoble France

 

strawberries view of Grenoble France from Pere Gras Restaurant

View of Grenoble from Pere Gras

But, they make for wonderful photo ops all around the world in markets, whether Canada or South America or Europe or a nearby park on farm market day. A memorable dessert in Grenoble, France, was a simple plate of berries garnished simply with crème Chantilly (lightly sweetened whipped crème fraiche) at Pere Gras, a restaurant at a hilltop fortress, “La Bastille” with a view of the entire valley.

 

strawberries fraises de bois and regular in a market

Fraises de Bois

 

In Europe, you’ll sometimes also find the old fashioned ‘fraises de bois’, woodland strawberries, achingly sweet and the size of your pinkie.

A few years ago, myMEGusta encountered perfect, fresh peas and strawberries in street markets all over Helsinki, Finland. Her freshly purchased strawberries drew envious glances from other diners at the otherwise pedestrian hotel breakfast buffet. The berries were within their grasp, a block away…

strawberries stand near hotel Helsinki Finland 2017

Helsinki Finland in July

A marketing consultant and devotee of fine dining, Mary Ellen Griffin is also the creator and author of myMEGusta.com, the blog about some of life’s great pleasures: Eating well, and travel experiences – particularly those involved with markets & local foods. Mary Ellen holds an MBA from NYU, an MS in Journalism from Columbia University, and is a graduate of Wellesley College. She has studied cooking at the Lycee Technique Hotelier, Paris, France, via a Craig Claiborne Scholarship, as well as at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY.

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