It’s almost the end of June - how did that happen? We have already had the longest day and we are now just over half way through the year. I have slipped another week but have decided I need to be kind to myself as I may not always be able to manage this every week. I will just do it when I can. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of ferrying the 17 year old to exams and back, fitting in car driving practice and trying to make decisions about University. Thankfully he passed his driving test so that’s one box ticked. Cue anxious Mum as he ventures out on his own.
On the positive side, my son works at a farm shop at weekends which is where I found the inspiration for this week’s post. Strawberry season is in full swing and the farm shop sells the largest I have ever seen, all locally grown in the Garden of England.
Strawberries originally grew in the wild back in Roman times but we are more familiar with the strawberry fragaria x ananassa or garden strawberry first grown in Britanny, France in the late 18th Century. There are around ten varieties that are cultivated worldwide, characterized by the bright red colour, juicy texture and sweet taste. They are not technically a fruit as the seeds grow on the outside - approximately 200 per berry. The plant is a ‘runner’ and does not actually grow from the seed. Traditionally they are grown on a base of straw to protect the plants from mud - hence the name strawberry.
The official season in the UK is from 1st May to the end of September and they epitomise our English summer probably more than any other fruit. Strawberries and Cream have been paired since Tudor times but it is at our world famous tennis tournament, Wimbledon, that this treat has become so iconic - Wimbledon just wouldn’t be tennis without Strawberries and Cream. The origins of this are a little hazy but it could have just been a happy coincidence. Wimbledon was founded in 1897 and the Victorians were already fans of the dish. It just so happens that strawberries are at their peak in July, when the tournament takes place and were considered the height of luxury as, without refrigeration, their shelf life will have been somewhat limited. So it could all have been down to timing.
The strawberry is yet another nutritional powerhouse packed with vitamins, minerals, fibre and folic acid. These include Vitamins C & K, Manganese and Potassium, all of which play a role in supporting heart, blood and bone health. They also contain significant amounts of phytonutrients and flavanoids both of which are beneficial to our immune system due to their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Eating strawberries as part of a balanced diet is, therefore, beneficial to our health.
So back to my son and his Saturday job at Hartley Coffee House and Farm Shop in Cranbrook - he works in the bakery where they make the most amazing Strawberry Swirl Meringues.
I had every intention of making my own but one of the beaters on my food mixer snapped half way through so I had to abandon that idea. Instead I bought these from the farm shop - they are truly delicious, soft and chewy on the inside and crisp on the outside, just as they should be. I did make a Strawberry Compote - just fruit and some sugar gently heated and blitzed with a hand blender. If I had managed to complete my own meringues, I would have made nests for individual pavlovas. There are more of a shell so my pavlova ended up more of an unstructured Eton Mess - a combination of meringue, fruit, compote and cream. It may not look too pretty but it does taste good.
All of the images have been shot in natural light from a window to the right and a large reflector on the left to bounce light back into the shadows. Lovely summer light creates bright, summery images, perfect for the subject. I shoot mostly with a Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art Lens for overhead shots and a Canon 100mm f2.8L IS Macro for the face on shots. I could do with something between the two so a Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art is next on my list.
Next week I will be featuring my favourite of all the seasonal foods - Cherries. I need to change my approach to add some variety to my shots, particularly for my Instagram feed so dark and moody may be way to go.
Until next week - thank you for looking.