There’s Nothing Like Chilling Out on Summer’s day With a Bowl of These Juıcy Succulent Fruits
Despite their diminutive size, alpine strawberries pack a punch full of mouth-watering, lip-smacking flavour. If you’re already happy with the less-than-flavoursome monster fruits you buy from the supermarket, just wait until you’ve tasted your own home-grown beauties – these little jewels in the strawberry crown are so much more delicious! They smell wonderful, too, and are held high on the plant, often above the leaves, so they’re not only easy to pick, they shine out in a pot. While red is the traditional colour, some varieties have white or yellow fruits.
Alpine strawberries are ever-bearing, which means that the fruit is produced in flushes throughout summer and for longer than their larger cousins. And they’re dead easy to look after, needing much less effort from you than the bigger beauties, so you’ve got more time to enjoy your garden – and the tasty fruits of your labour! They’re tough little plants that grow well in just about any soil, withstand drought (although watering during dry summer periods will mean they produce more fruit) and they grow well in shady positions.
The almost wild-rose-like white flowers that precede the fruit are pretty, too. You could grow these precious little rubies in rows in a raised bed, but you’d be missing a trick! Their dense, low-growing leaves provide excellent weed-smothering groundcover, so add them to the front of your beds. They make attractive edging to patios and paths, too, and they’re perfect for growing in containers. Plant some in a nice big pot on the patio, where you can just reach out an arm and pop one in your mouth, or fill a hanging basket with them. These berries are much sought-after by gourmet chefs, as they’re so packed with flavour. And it’s very simple to enhance that taste further: put them in a bowl, sprinkle with a little sugar, then lightly crush them and leave for as long as you can bear before devouring. Use them to add explosions of colour and flavour to an otherwise green leafy salad, too. So, forget insipid store-bought strawberries, grow these tiny treats at home and enjoy them in pavlova, ice cream and even wine!
Although you can grow plants of true alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca) from seed, it’s far easier and better – and you’ll be eating them sooner! – to buy young plants. Height 30cm Spread 1m, £17.97/3 plants crocus.co.uk If you adore the flavour so much that you want a jumbo version, then go for ‘Mara des Bois’. This variety combines the sweet, aromatic taste of an alpine strawberry with fruit the size of a traditional one. Height 40cm Spread 60cm, £12.99/12 plants suttons.co.uk.
HOW TO GROW
Alpine strawberries are the perfect edible edging for beds, patios and paths.
YOU WILL NEED
Watering can with rose Trowel Alpine strawberry plants Planting compost, such as Verve Soil Improver, £4.37/50L diy.com Fertiliser, such as Vitax Q4, £9.99 crocus.co.uk.
WHAT TO DO
Water the plants in their containers before planting. Thoroughly dig the soil, breaking up any large clumps and removing the roots of any weeds. Mix the compost into the soil and sprinkle over some of the fertiliser. Make holes in the soil 30cm apart, and add a bit more compost to the excavated soil. Pop a plant into each hole, adding some more compost if needed so that the top of the rootball is at the same level as the surrounding soil. Gently firm in using your fingers or the end of the trowel, and water thoroughly.
MINI ALPINE STRAWBERRY PAVLOVAS INGREDIENTS
3 large egg whites 150g caster sugar 300ml double cream Alpine strawberries Serves 6.
WHAT TO DO
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Line two baking sheets with greaseproof paper. Draw three 8-10cm circles across on each piece of paper, drawing around a large cup or small bowl and spacing them out. Ensure your bowl and mixer are completely grease-free. Cutting a lemon in half and wiping it around the bowl and mixer blades is a great way to eliminate any grease. Separate the eggs and place the whites in the bowl. Begin whisking on a medium speed using an electric hand whisk or free-standing whisk. Keep going until the whites become fluffy and create soft peaks. Increase the mixer speed and begin adding spoonfuls of sugar in stages, ensuring each spoonful is well mixed before adding the next.
Continue to whisk until all the sugar is added and the mixture looks thick and glossy. Use a large spoon to scoop the mixture onto the baking sheets, using the circles as a guide. Create six circles of meringue, then use the back of the spoon to create an indentation in the centre of each. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 50 minutes. Open the oven door and leave to cool completely. Whip the cream until soft and billowy. Spoon into the mini pavlovas and top with a pile of alpine strawberries.
ALPINE ICE CREAM INGREDIENTS
300g alpine strawberries, washed and hulled 500ml double cream 397g can sweetened condensed milk Serves 8.
WHAT TO DO
Using a food processor or blender, blitz the strawberries to a puree. Strain the puree through a sieve to remove the seeds. 2 Combine the cream and condensed milk in the bowl of a free-standing mixer (or use a hand-held mixer). Whisk until the mixture is thick and creates soft peaks, but be careful not to overmix. 3 Add the strawberry puree to the cream mixture and fold through carefully. Pour the mixture into a freezer-proof container – a plastic pot or a loaf tin works really well. 4 Freeze until solid, approximately 4 hours. 5 Serve with additional alpine strawberries and whipped cream.
ALPINE STRAWBERRY SPRITZER INGREDIENTS
200g red alpine strawberries, washed and hulled 200g granulated sugar 250ml water White wine of your choice Serves 2.
WHAT TO DO
Place the strawberries, sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. Reduce the temperature and simmer for 10 minutes or until the strawberries are soft and the water has turned pink. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve. Just lay the sieve over a bowl and pile the fruit into it and leave to drain. This will create a clear syrup (if you push down on the fruit, you will create a thicker puree). Allow to cool. Place 2 tbsp of the syrup in a wine glass and top with chilled white wine. Serve with an alpine strawberry sprig.
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