There’s no taste that evokes the English Summer any better than a locally grown berry. Freshly picked and still warm from the sun, they have an intense, sweet flavour. They don’t need much dressing up either. Delicious just as they are or to be enjoyed with a splash of cream.
Raspberries will follow later in July before jostaberries, tayberries (a cross between the blackberry and a raspberry), redcurrants and blackcurrants. It’s something that’s indelibly written in the year in the life of the Kennard family, and back in the days when they picked fruit for sale in the supermarkets, Alice remembers picking and sorting strawberries in June along with her one-week-old newborn, Ben.
This season, the unusually cold Spring followed by a bout of sunshine has lead to a bumper crop of berries. Julian, who spends much of his year tending to the crop has a fair bit of experience in picking; “don’t touch the strawberry itself,” he advises, “but grab the green stem and twist, leaving the calyx in place – they keep much longer that way”.
There’s a nostalgic factor too. Childhood memories of juice-stained fingers and seeking out the biggest berries to add to the pile. Since 2007 the strawberries have been grown at tabletop height for easier picking, hopefully, less back-breaking an effort and easier for little hands, so gather up your tubs, get the children involved and reap the rewards of picking your own delicious homegrown produce.
We pop strawberries in with our elderflower cordial and salads and pile them on top of scones, but for the flavour of Summer all year round, if there’s time, will make Strawberry jam.
Makes 4 x 200ml jars
2kg small ripe strawberries
1.7kg jam sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1. Hull the strawberries and discard any rotten ones. Set aside about 10 of the smallest berries, and then mash the rest up into a rough pulp. Put into a wide, thick-bottomed pan, add the sugar and the lemon juice, and bring to the boil. Add the remaining strawberries to the pan, and put a saucer in the freezer.
2. Boil the jam for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly checking the setting point every minute or so during the last 5 minutes. To do this, take the cold saucer out of the freezer, put a little jam on it, and put it back in to cool for a minute. If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, then it’s done. Strawberry jam is unlikely to set very solid though, so don’t expect the same results as you would with a marmalade.
3. Take off the heat and skim off the pink scum. Pour into sterilised jars and cover with a disc of waxed paper, seal and store.
Forde Abbey Fruit Farm
In season, it’ll be open daily from 9.30am – 6pm.
4 miles SE of Chard TA20 4NA, signposted on local roads.