Get creative with in-season strawberries
It’s strawberry season, and with many restaurants and bakeries across the east coast closed, there’s an abundance of discounted strawbs hitting supermarkets and greengrocers. Here’s how to make the most of them and get creative with in-season strawberries.
The Queensland strawberry peak season is in full swing, and with excellent growing conditions this year, there’s a huge abundance of gorgeously plump, sweet strawberries currently available. Many farms have been increasing their volume output by 30-50 percent in just the last week alone, and this is set to continue for the next six weeks.
There’s a common misconception that strawberries are a summer fruit, given their availability all year round. But strawberries are a winter fruit, with the Australian strawberry season running from late May through to October. Queensland is Australia’s biggest strawberry producer, with more than 100 growers across the state producing more than 40 percent of all the country’s strawberries. And right now, they need your help.
As we reported last week, the bulk of fresh strawberries usually go to restaurants, cafes and bakeries, but with two states and one territory on the east coast currently in lockdown, this is channelling more strawberries into our supermarkets and greengrocers, which are slashing prices in an attempt to move product. You can now find punnets of strawberries for less than $2, with Woolworths now selling at $1.50, Coles at $1.40 and Aldi for as little as $0.99. Last month, one Canberra supermarket was selling three punnets for just $2.
These discount prices mean that strawberry growers are operating at a loss, losing around 50 cents for every sale. If demand doesn’t increase, our growers won’t be able to cover even their most basic costs. And if strawberry growers decide that producing the fruit isn’t worth it, this could lead to fewer strawberries for us to enjoy in coming years.
The headache for growers is being compounded by the fact that strawberries tend to be more of an impulse purchase – shoppers browsing at supermarkets will spot some big, juicy berries and decide to pop a few punnets in their basket. According to Berries Australia Executive Director Rachel Mackenzie, berries are also something that a more frequent shopper would pick up, as they have a short shelf life. With so many shoppers buying groceries online in bulk right now, this means that berries are usually bypassed.
So we’re encouraging you to take advantage of these super-low prices and get inventive with strawberries while they’re in their prime. You’ll be helping our growers and you’ll get to enjoy the fruit while it’s at its absolute juicy and nutritional best – everybody wins. Below, we’ve shared some ideas on how you can get creative with this delightfully sweet fruit.
Creative (and easy) ways to use fresh strawberries
Simple strawberry syrup
Heat 1 cup of caster sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan until sugar is dissolved. Add 2 cups of sliced strawberries and simmer for 20-25 minutes until strawberries are collapsing. Mash with a fork and strain. Store in the fridge in a clean glass jar. You can also play with aromatics. Try vanilla bean, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary or chilli (remove before mashing).
Process 150g softened butter with a handful of chopped strawberries. This can be served right away, or use baking paper or cling wrap to roll into a log and refrigerate.
Preheat oven to 90°C, lay sliced strawberries on tray lined with baking paper. Place in oven to dry for 2-3 hours. They’re ready when the moisture has evaporated and they can be peeled off the paper easily. Cool and store in a clean airtight container for up to a week.
When cooking porridge, add a handful of chopped strawberries a minute before serving. Serve topped with toasted nuts and a drizzle of honey.
Add a handful each of dried strawberries, almonds, cashews, pepitas, dark chocolate and crunchy muesli plus a good sprinkle of shaved coconut into a clean jar. Shake to mix.
Layer chopped strawberries and strawberry syrup with custard, crumbled Scotch Finger biscuits and crumbled meringues, and finish with a dollop of double cream.
Strawberry avo smash
Toast 2 slices of bread, top with half a smashed avocado, sliced strawberries, a sprinkle of sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and balsamic.
Strawberry nut toast
A great protein-injected snack that’ll keep the kids happy. Spread toast with your favourite nut butter, top with sliced strawberries and a drizzle of honey. Or, for an extra treat, try Nutella with strawberries and a sprinkle of toasted hazelnuts.
Add a handful of finely chopped strawberries to a chopped avocado, finely diced red capsicum, finely diced red onion, chopped coriander, chopped chilli, a generous squeeze of lime, a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a good pinch of sea salt. Serve on toast, with corn chips, nachos, tacos, grilled fish, pulled pork or slow-roasted lamb.
Pour a measure of your favourite gin over ice, add a squeeze of lime, some shredded basil leaves and strawberry syrup to taste. Top with tonic, stir and serve.
Preheat your oven to 200°C. Hull and halve 2 punnets of strawberries, and toss in a bowl with 2 tablespoons caster sugar, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Place on baking tray lined with baking paper, aligning in a single layer for even cooking. Roast the strawberries for 10 minutes or until just releasing their juices. Allow to cool before serving with croissants, ice cream or baked brie (see below).
Baked brie with strawberries
1 wheel of double cream brie
¼ cup baked strawberries
1 tbsp nuts/seeds, roughly chopped
Nuts and herbs for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Prepare brie by shaving off the white rind on the top. Position onto a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 10 minutes or until brie is just soft. Arrange sliced baked strawberries on top of the brie, return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.
2. Sprinkle with herbs and nuts (eg, lemon thyme and toasted slivered almonds), splash on a little balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.
For more strawberry recipe inspiration, head to qldstrawberries.com.au