I popped round to see a friend last week and her husband was unpacking a few goodies he’d just picked up at his local farm shop. He approached me with a big grin on his face and a small offering in his outstretched palm;
“You have to try this.”
In his hand was a small but beautifully formed strawberry, glistening slightly under its cap of green leaves.
I did as I was told and bit into it and the taste of summer exploded on my tongue whisking me back to those long, sun-drenched days of my childhood when summer seemed to last forever and all I had to worry about was which tiny hole would I crawl into for the next game of neighbourhood hide and seek. If sunshine could be bottled, I’m sure it would taste of freshly picked strawberries.
Is there anything more evocative of a British summer than that taste? And I’m not talking about the all-year-round insipid supermarket strawberries, covered in plastic, tasting of literally NOTHING and flown in from goodness only knows. I mean those little shiny ruby nuggets of freshness that have spent the day basking on a bed of straw in the sunshine until they were wrestled off the stalk by your own fair hands. Most made it into a punnet to be weighed but a few, less fortunate, disappeared elsewhere and the taste…oh the taste…exquisite!
Photo from Evergreen Explorers on a trip to Bourne Valley PYO
Did you ever visit a PYO strawberry farm when you were little? We had one at the end of our road and we would go a couple of times each season. It always seemed to be on a boiling hot day, and we would slap on the sun-cream and a big-brimmed hat and wander down there with our baskets. In my memories, the walk took forever as we stopped to throw sticky weed on each other’s backs or pull the long grass and tease our companions’ ears from behind. We’d arrive sweaty and itchy but the sight of the neat rows of strawberry plants stretching out ahead would revive us and the thought of the juicy fruits waiting to be picked, even more so.
Preparing the strawberry rows
at Strawberry Fields PYO in Morley
Bent down on our haunches, lifting the fronds and searching for the hidden red treasures was pure joy especially when you found a plant heavily laden where no one else had been before you and you could strip it and fill your container with a layer of fruit before moving, crab-like, onto the next one. In reality, I contributed meagrely to the family collection, adding one or two handfuls to my mother’s bountiful harvest but I don’t think she minded. She was just pleased that she was out in the fresh air, away from the kitchen chores and breathing in the summer vibes.
Loading the punnets onto the scales was always a dramatic moment and learning just how many pounds we had managed to gather. We would take them home, happy in the knowledge that pudding was a sure thing that day, and that jam-making would also be on the cards in the very near future.
I’ve reminisced for too long and all because of that little strawberry. Imagine if you offered one to each customer that came through the door of the farm shop? Maybe you’d have to listen to them wax lyrical about their childhood for a few minutes, but I bet your strawberry sales would go through the roof!
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