Market Fresh: Sweet! It’s strawberry season in Metro Vancouver

Some things are predictable for a reason. Back-to-school advertising in July. Rush hour traffic. And strawberries in June. That’s why this column is all about strawberries — B.C. strawberries.

Some things are predictable for a reason. Back-to-school advertising in July. Rush hour traffic. And strawberries in June. That’s why this column is all about strawberries — B.C. strawberries.

The markets are bursting with deep red globes of goodness. For the next couple of weeks, get your fill as the abundance is always short-lived. They will be back later in the season, but for now, get as many as you can.

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According to Wikipedia, the French began growing wild strawberries in gardens as early as the 14th century but it wasn’t until the late 18th century that the strawberries we grow today became common.

Botanically, strawberries are neither a berry nor a fruit; they are the enlarged receptacle of a flower, related to the rose family.

I chatted with Mandair Farms to find out what it takes to grow those luscious berries we love. Jasbir told me that traditionally, strawberries are planted in a flat field. However, Mandair Farms cover the rows with black plastic prior to planting as this ensures a cleaner, higher quality berry.

Planting can start as early as April with all the new varieties of strawberries that are coming out but Albion is the most popular because of its shelf life, sweetness and production: twice a year. Mandair has Rainier strawberries as well, a June-bearing strawb and the sweetest, but with a short shelf life — just a couple of days.

An interesting experiment at market involves visiting all the strawberry vendors. Try a berry from each farm and you will see how the different soils and weather conditions affect the taste.

Regardless of which vendor you choose, rest assured that the berries are amazing. Stock up and put them in the freezer for a taste of summer all year long. You can even try your hand at growing them yourself. The Port Coquitlam Farmers’ Market (held Thursday afternoons at Leigh Square) is featuring a container gardening workshop on June 22.

Karen Curtis is the Lemonade Lady (kicslemonade.ca and kicslemonade.blogspot.ca) at the Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam farmers markets. Her column runs monthly.

 

FATHER’S DAY MARKET MEAL SUNDAY

 

The Coquitlam market (Sundays, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the parking lot at Dogwood Pavilion) is offering free plants to the first 100 dads at market this Sunday as well as a great workshop.

Join chef Christina Sepidoza-Walter for a unique dining experience; shop the market with her to choose fresh seasonal veggies, then help her prepare a Mediterranean steak salad and herbed flatbread.

Once lunch is prepared, sit down with chef and other participants to enjoy the lunch you’ve created — a truly special dining experience. Lunch will take place in an outdoor tented area, so dress for the weather.

Cost: $25. Sign up online at makebakegrow.com/events.

 

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STRAWBERRY RECIPES

Asparagus Salad w/ Strawberries, Radish & Goat Cheese

500 g (1 lb.) fresh asparagus

1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries

1/2 cup thinly sliced radishes

1 tbsp each snipped chives, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (optional)

60 g (2 oz) fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Trim ends off asparagus and wash well. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt. Have a bowl of ice water handy to chill asparagus after cooking. Drop asparagus in and boil for 2 minutes until just tender, then drain and plunge into ice water to chill. Remove after it cools completely, drain and chill until ready to assemble salad.

Arrange asparagus on a platter and top with sliced strawberries, radishes and chives. Season with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Drizzle with olive oil, if desired. Sprinkle with goat cheese. Makes 2 servings.

 

Strawberry & Brie French Toast

 3/4 cup whole milk

5 large eggs, beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp cinnamon

a pinch of cardamom

2 tsp sugar

8 slices French bread, 1.5 inches (3.5 cm) thick

300 g brie cheese, sliced

3.5 cups strawberries, sliced

1/4 cup butter

icing sugar

maple syrup

In large bowl, beat together milk, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom and sugar. Cut slices of bread horizontally to form a pocket. Set aside 1 cup of sliced strawberries for garnish. Place slices of brie and strawberries in pocket, press down lightly. Dip bread slices in egg mixture, turn to coat each side. Place bread slices on a cookie sheet, cover and chill for 20 minutes.

In large frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add bread slices, cook each side about 2 minutes or until golden and cheese starts to melt. Remove from pan, dust with icing sugar and garnish with strawberries. Serve immediately with maple syrup. Makes 8 servings.

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