“Strawberries are the angels of the earth, innocent and sweet, with green leafy wings reaching heavenward.”

— Terri Guillmemets

What glories there are to be had in June! Such beauty and industry abound: dedicated ants crack open the frilly folds of brilliantly colored peonies, busy bees buzz about collecting necessary nectar. The forces of nature are diligently working together to provide us with the scents, sights and sustenance of another summer season. Conscious cooks say prayers of thanks for the return of long-awaited annual crops such as tender lettuces, baby kale, fragrant herbs, and the eagerly anticipated arrival of native strawberries.

June is prime strawberry season, a fantastic time to visit farmers markets and pick-your- own farms where strawberry lovers are welcome to fill buckets and baskets with plenty of sweetly perfumed scarlet fruit.

Succulent strawberries are delicate and should be used fairly quickly after picking or purchasing. With a myriad of uses, strawberries can be incorporated into all manner of sweet and savory dishes. Try a strawberry salsa: Cube strawberries and mix with a bit of grated lime zest, lime juice, chopped cilantro and minced jalapeno pepper, for a zesty accompaniment to fish, chicken or pork. Mix strawberries with cream cheese, goat cheese or mascarpone, add a couple of dashes of ground cinnamon and a splash of lemon juice for a sensational spread to enjoy on toast or crackers. Summer salads composed of freshly harvested greens, strawberry slices, toasted nuts and a soft cheese will delight the senses.  Prepare strawberry bruschetta for an elegant summer hors d’oeuvre, or freeze a handful of berries and combine with half a frozen banana and yogurt or milk for a refreshing smoothie.

Strawberries are truly one of our great earthly gifts. Not only is the sweet, juicy flavor so supremely satisfying, strawberries are a nutritional powerhouse. In ancient Roman days, wild strawberries were used medicinally to alleviate inflammation, gout, fever, kidney stones, and even bad breath. Strawberries are full of fiber and potassium, both of which can support heart health. Rich in antioxidants, strawberries may help reduce the formation of harmful blood clots, protect against the ravages of free radicals, help regulate blood pressure and may possibly equip the body with cancer protection. The superb vitamin C content will help boost immunity, as well as promoting eye health. That same vitamin C is vital for production of collagen in the skin and restoring a radiant complexion. Low calorie, fat-free strawberries provide natural sugars with very little sodium, making these beauties a superb snack with plenty of healthy benefits.

Make the most of June’s glories, as you prepare your delicious life.

Strawberry Bruschetta

Makes 12 slices.

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar or strawberry balsamic vinegar

1 small baguette, cut into 12 slices

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound fresh strawberries, washed, stemmed and diced

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

1 cup goat cheese or cream cheese, room temperature (or mix half and half together)

salt

freshly ground black pepper

Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small pan over low heat until simmering, then let reduce by half until syrupy. Remove from heat and let cool.

Place bread slices on a baking sheet, drizzle with the olive oil. You can toast, broil or grill these until at desired crispness.

Combine strawberries, the reduced balsamic vinegar and thyme with a pinch of salt and pepper in a bowl.

Spread cheese on bread slices. Spoon strawberry mixture on top and garnish with more thyme leaves if desired. Grind a small bit of black pepper on top and drizzle with any remaining strawberry juices.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, 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