Food in the Forest: Strawberries - to Hull and back

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Helen Jackson Helen Jackson

I've just returned from a family visit to Hull with a basket of my sister-in-law's home-grown strawberries.

They looked absolutely divine: even-sized, glossy, firm but not too soft and totally fresh, having being picked an hour before. They also tasted delicious with a slightly tart flavour.

As a non-sporty girl, I tend to associate Wimbledon with strawberries. Around 8,615 punnets are sold daily and last year a punnet, not less than 10 berries, with cream cost £2.50.

With the sun shining on Sunday, I took a trip down Walthamstow’s High Street to pick up a couple of punnets to compare quality and prices.

Lidl - 0/10
I started in Lidl, where I was disappointed to find strawberries out of stock. That’s the problem with cut price supermarkets: availability can be temperamental.

Sainsburys - 7/10
In the supermarket a punnet of 400g (14 berries) cost £2. They were grown at Bounds Farm, Essex and had a best before date of June 11.  These were disappointing in terms of size: there were some very small ones and really huge ones that needed chopping into four. The colour also varied, from pale to dark red. They were the sweetest berries tasted.

Farmers' Market - 9/10
Here Millets Farm Centre from Oxford had single punnets for £2 or three for £5. The 20 berries were medium sized and beautifully even. They could have been served exactly as they were without the need to chop. They were pale and glossy in colour and only one at the bottom was slightly bruised. The berries were full of flavour: not too tart or sweet. These were the only ones to rival my sister-in-law's and blows the myth that the farmers' market is expensive.

Buy and Save International Supermarket - 5/10
The cheapest at £1.59 with the most berries (29).  However, they were uneven in size and shape and many were already past their best.  Interestingly, the best berries were at the bottom. They also had a really dark red colour which was slightly off-putting. They had the sharpest flavour.

If you find your strawberries a bit mushy, why not make a healthy strawberry smoothie?

Strawberry smoothie - serves two

  • 12 strawberries
  • ¼pt milk
  • ¼pt strawberry yoghurt
  • Handful of ice cubes
  • Whizz everything in a blender and serve immediately. 
  • To ring the changes, add a teaspoonful of honey or ½ teaspoon minced ginger.

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