“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.” —Izaak Walton

One of the most divinely delicious moments in a New England cook’s life, is in June, when farm markets offer fresh strawberries. The intoxicating scent of the heart-shaped, scarlet berries fills the air with a magnificent perfume, and oh, the taste, the sweet, juicy, incredibly delicious taste of a fresh strawberry makes one praise the mighty glory of nature’s bounty!

The perfection of strawberries makes for an intense eating experience: It’s as if you can actually taste sunshine. Perhaps no other food evokes such a sensuous and scintillating dining encounter as a bowlful of freshly picked strawberries. Affectionately known as the “Queen of Berries,” strawberries reign as one of the most truly luscious and lovely of all summer produce.

A member of the rose family, strawberries may have been enjoyed as far back in time as 234 BC. The ancient Romans used strawberries to alleviate symptoms of fainting, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones and halitosis. With the charming capability to captivate our senses of sight, smell and taste, is it any wonder that strawberries were revered as an aphrodisiac by 13th-Century newlyweds, and continue to be adored today?

Strawberries are sumptuously satisfying on so many levels, but how marvelous that they are incredibly healthful as well. Low in calories and high in fiber content, strawberries are sodium-, cholesterol- and fat-free. Plenty of servings of strawberries may help ease inflammation, lower cardiovascular disease, promote bone and eye health, and boost short-term memory.

Strawberries are a vibrant, versatile ingredient, infusing tarts, pies, cakes, frozen desserts, salads, salsas and beverages such as lemonade and sangria with delectable flavor. A simple dessert of fresh strawberries, served with brown sugar-laced sour cream for dipping, is perfect for early summer parties. Strawberries pair well with other berries and fruits for sumptuous shortcakes, or make a spectacular hors d’oeuvre when paired with toasted almonds, a wedge of creamy Brie, a sprightly goat cheese and a crisp baguette.

Whether you choose to buy your strawberries form your local farmer’s market or enjoy a pick-your-own experience at a local farm, keep in mind that strawberries are delicate and highly perishable. Plan to enjoy your beautiful berries within two days, keeping them unwashed until ready to use. Freezing whole berries on a cookie sheet and storing in freezer bags will provide you with sunshine-filled smoothies, sauces and soups for the coming months.

Enjoy the sunshine-filled strawberry season as part of preparing your delicious life!

Sunshine Filled Strawberries

Makes 12; multiply as needed.

In a mixer or by hand, whip together 8 ounces of reduced fat cream cheese on medium speed until fluffy.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.

Trim off the tops of 12 large, fresh strawberries and then trim across the bottom so the strawberry can sit level . Use a small melon baller to scoop out a little of the strawberry flesh and form a cavity.

Spoon the cream cheese mixture into each strawberry or for a more fancy approach, fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the cream cheese and pipe into berries.

Garnish each strawberry with a couple of toasted almond slices and a tiny sprig of mint.

(Alternatively, fill strawberries with lightly sweetened whipped cream or plain yogurt sweetened with brown sugar and add a little lemon zest.)

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children  and adults utilizing fresh, natural ingredients and super simple, extra delicious recipes. She also conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net. 

Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com