Nothing says June like a pint of fragrant strawberries. Apparently, the Los Angeles Times writer Emily Green agrees, writing a heartfelt ode to the red berry:
Strawberries don't wait for you to find them. They beckon. Their botanical name, Fragaria, means fragrance, and it's their sudden perfume in farmers markets, stall after stall, that signals the start of a new fruit season. They're at their sweetest in June, with that unique combination of firmness, seedy interest and intense rush of juice.
Besides waxing romantic about the wee berries, she also offers some handy tips on caring for these juicy treats:
The packaging that strawberries come in, from both stores and farmers markets, leaves them in moist traps that invite rot. This technique for repacking them at home. It can prolong the life of a ripe strawberry from a day to a week.
First, get the strawberries home, fast. Or if you can't, take a cooler with chill packs to the farmers market. Once home, do not rinse the berries before storing. Dampness will enhance rot. I brush and trim obvious crud but never wash them. Others rinse them just before eating. Never submerge.
But before packing, merely pick out and discard any damaged or moldy ones. Get airtight plastic containers; a deep rectangular Tupperware box is perfect. Line the bottom with a paper towel. Cover the bottom with the first pint. Cover them with another layer of paper towel. Cover with another layer of berries. I've stored as many as five layers of berries in one large tub. Cover the last layer: The paper will absorb any excess moisture and keep rot at bay. Then store the berries in the top shelf of the fridge, the coldest one, where they will remain suspended at ripeness, ready to eat and in good order as you unveil and eat each layer.
Of course, eating fresh strawberries with a glass of champagne, perhaps dipping them in creme fraiche or whipped cream, is quite possibly the most satisfying way to enjoy them at their peak. However, as I'm currently infatuated with my new ice cream maker, I'm all caught up in the idea of concocting a homemade strawberry ice cream or gelato this season. And, here's a recipe that sounds like it might make the grade - for strawberry ice cream, or ice creams based on other fresh fruit:
For 1 quart, place 1 1/2 cups milk in the top of a double boiler and bring just to a simmer over gently boiling water over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk together 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, and 3/4 cup sugar in a mixing bowl. Lightly whisk 1/4 cup of the hot milk into egg mixture, then whisk egg mixture into remaining milk in top of double boiler. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until mixture is thick enough to coat back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl; stir in 1 1/2 cups heavy cream; refrigerate until cold. Mix, as directed below, with whatever fruit is in season
Combine 1 pint thinly sliced hulled fresh strawberries, 1/3 cup sugar, and the juice of 1/2 lemon in a mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours. Slightly mash strawberries, then stir into cream base and pour into an ice-cream maker. Process according to manufacturer