Picking your own strawberries in Yorkshire
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As the pick-your-own season starts, Jo Haywood asks whether strawberries have a savoury side
Few of us would jump for joy at the prospect of digging up our own potatoes and you wouldn’t catch many of us pushing the farmer out of the way to knock the dirt off our asparagus, but when it comes to strawberries we’re only too happy to pick our own.
Perhaps it’s because the strawberry season coincides with the narrow window of good weather we enjoy in this country, giving us a good excuse to top up our tans and vitamin D quotient while stocking the fridge. Or maybe it’s because, unlike potatoes and asparagus, we can savour our sweet pickings straight away, returning a ridiculously light punnet to be weighed in while we leave the fields a little heavier on the scales ourselves.
Whatever the reason, the fact remains that we love a good old PYO session almost as much as we love a traditional strawberry tea.
‘English strawberries are by far the best in the world,’ said Suzannah Hepworth, owner of The Local Pantry, a shop and café in Otley that specialises in fresh, local fare. ‘They should be eaten only when in season though (May until the weather cools in September, with a peak in late June and early July) so it’s probably best to eat as many as you can while you can so you can’t face the thought of another until next year. Whatever you do though, avoid the large, pale tasteless imports at all costs.’
There is something genuinely exciting about the first strawberries of the season. It’s partly the unique sweet taste, but it’s also got something to do with the promise of warm weather and good times to come.
‘When the small, sweet early strawberries appear, us Brits know that summer is on its way,’ said Suzannah, ‘and our thoughts turn to lazy summer picnics, a glass of Pimms and, of course, Wimbledon.
‘Strawberries picked by your own fair hand are the ultimate in summer treats. I like to visit Rory in Horsforth and he swears by the Florence variety; not one you’ll find in the supermarkets as it’s not so pesticide-friendly.’
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You might think that strawberries are destined exclusively for sweet treats, teamed with cream, buttery sponge and, if we’re feeling crazily creative, shortbread, but they do actually have an interesting savoury dimension.
David Morris, fruit buyer for Booths, suggests adding strawberries to summer salads to give them an additional edge in terms of both colour and taste.
‘They also work really well when paired with griddled asparagus, avocado, basil, mint or pink peppercorns,’ he added. ‘Or what about as an accompaniment to crab, parma ham, lardons or duck?
‘For a really colourful and tasty salad, try combining fresh griddled asparagus, crispy lardons, halved strawberries and crumbled goat’s cheese.’
So, next time you’re picking you own, whether in the field or your local farm shop, remember to think savoury as well as sweet when choosing your other ingredients. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should ever swap cream for gravy. There are limits, you know.
Pick of the crops
Picking your own is a peculiarly satisfying pastime – and a great way to ensure there are plenty of fresh strawberries for tea (if any of them actually make it into your punnet – you know who you are, you sneaky snaffler!).
If you fancy giving it a go, here is a tasty ten of Yorkshire PYO places you might want to try.
The Balloon Tree, Stamford Bridge Road, Gate Helmsley, near York, 01759 373023.
Bluebell Farm, Askham Bryan, near York, 01904 798426.
Church Lane Farm, Hutton Bonville, Northallerton, 01609 881266.
West House Farm, Birstwith, Harrogate, 01423 771360.
Birchin Lee Farm, Dronfield Woodhouse, Sheffield, 0114 289 0225.
Eastfied Farm, Tickhill, Doncaster, 01302 751729.
Grange Farm Fruits, Alison Lane, Ulrome, Driffield, 07761 108976.
Lilac Farm, Jewitt Lane, Collingham, Wetherby, 01937 573162.
Birkwood Farm, Altofts, Normanton, Wakefield, 01924 892251.
Harewood Bridge PYO Farm Shop, Wharfedale Grange, Harewood 07745 970039
Where’s your favourite PYO site? Share your tips by writing to Yorkshire Life, PO Box 163, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 9AG, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or tweeting @Yorkshire_Life.