Berried Treasure Strawberry Recipes
May is Strawberry Month in North Carolina, and there is plenty to celebrate. The United States ranks first in strawberry production worldwide, and North Carolina ranks third in the nation for the value of its strawberry harvest, behind California and Florida. Most North Carolina strawberries are grown for fresh-market purposes, meaning they are sold fresh at local supermarket chains, farm stands, and pick-your-own operations, as opposed to being grown and sold for processing into other products, which is common in other top strawberry states.
For those who want to pick their own fruit, the North Carolina Strawberry Association offers a farm-locator feature to supply maps and schedules for the best picking and buying opportunities every strawberry season.
Fresh, local berries are unlike anything else. When picked at peak ripeness, they burst with flavor. What’s more, they contain a number of nutritional benefits. The berry is said to aid heart health with its anti-inflammatory qualities, which is fitting, since they even look like little hearts! They are full of vitamin C, low in calories and high in fiber. But, let’s face it – we just want to eat them because they are so juicy, sweet and scrumptious.
Usually, we think of strawberries in dessert or jam. This has been a great treat, but now cooks are expanding their choices by making wonderful pairings of strawberries with savory items. North Carolina is a top pork-producing state, and pork makes a surprising partner both for breakfast in Strawberry and Bacon Stuffed French Toast and supper in Grilled Pork Chops with Strawberry Chutney. Why wouldn’t it?
Another savory strawberry companion is mozzarella cheese. Its rich, salty flavor cuts the sweetness of the fruit in these Strawberry Caprese Skewers with Mint Pesto, where strawberries and mint replace the typical tomato and basil for an unforgettable appetizer. To make it even more memorable, you can use cookie-cutters to cut your cucumbers into fun shapes.
Strawberries actually belong to the rose family, and they smell as sweet as they taste. In the sauce for the Strawberry-Lemon Shortcake recipe, I offer the option of adding just a hint of rose flavoring so you can experience an unexpected culinary relationship. After all, there’s nothing quite like holding a sun-warmed, fresh-picked berry and inhaling the fragrance.
– Mary Carter