When Wimbledon season comes around, our minds are drawn to thoughts of tennis and strawberries!
This gorgeous fruit is as synonymous with the tournament as their official green and purple colours and Cliff Richard! They have been a part of the package since it started in 1877 and came about because they were always in season at the time of the tournament.
The Victorians loved strawberries and cream and as they went so well with their beloved afternoon tea, it became a fashionable ritual. Every year Wimbledon gets through 28,000 kg of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream!
The combination of strawberries and cream was created by Thomas Wolsey in the court of King Henry VIII Instructions for growing and harvesting strawberries had appeared in writing in 1578. By the end of the 16th century, three European species had been discovered. Originating in Northern and Central America, a seminal variety was discovered by a French Spy who journeyed to Chile and took it home to Brittany and created a subspecies that resulted in the common strawberry we have today.
Growing strawberries is a simple and fun project that can give you a wonderful crop of versatile fruit. Be sure to plant in good time to get your plants going and give you plenty of crops. Strawberries love the full sun so find a bright warm spot in your garden and if possible raise them up off the ground. You can buy specialised strawberry planters, grow them in hanging baskets or even raised beds. They prefer loam soil but will grow in anything with a little compost or well-rotted manure worked in. Give them plenty of room to sprawl, they don’t like to be too packed in. Pick off the first flowers to promote better fruit growth. Feed with a tomato fertiliser and water regularly but be careful not to let them become waterlogged. Make sure the fruit is fully ripened before picking as this will not continue after they have been harvested. Then sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour!
A good strawberry is hard to beat in its purest state, sun-warmed, straight from the plant but these fruits are so versatile that so much can be made from them. A very traditional way to use up a glut is jam. Nothing conjures up the idyll of a British summer afternoon than scones or a Victoria sponge with homemade jam.
A recipe I use is:
– 1kg of hulled strawberries.
– 750 g of Jam sugar and the juice of 1 lemon.
– Wipe the strawberries with some damp kitchen paper to ensure the fruit doesn’t absorb too much water.
– Cut a cone shape into the centre and remove the stem.
– Cut large berries in half.
– Put the strawberries and sugar into a bowl and mix gently.
– Leave overnight at room temperature for sugar to dissolve.
– Pour contents of the bowl into a saucepan and heat gently until sugar completely dissolves.
– Once dissolved boil hard for 5-10 minutes until jam reaches 105 degrees centigrade. (Useful to have a jam thermometer!) and then turn off the heat.
– Remove from heat, and use a spoon to scrape off the scum from the surface. Leave the jam to stand for 15 minutes before decanting into sterilised jars.
– If you don’t have a jam thermometer, put two saucers into the freezer for ten minutes.
– Place a small blob of jam onto the saucer and push with your finger. If the jam wrinkles, it is ready!