This is the time of year when our lovely soft fruits come into season. With the prospect of fine weather the berries begin to plump and swell. We are fortunate to live close to an area that grows a variety of soft fruits so buying and picking a good quality fruit is easy, we are spoilt for choice. Strawberries are most peoples favourite, they have been part of our diet since Roman times. We use them in flans, tarts, puddings, jams and preserves. Apparently they are very good dipped in black pepper, though I haven’t tried them that way. Being an old fashioned girl, I enjoy a cream tea, strawberries and clotted cream, what’s not to like?
But my favourite soft fruit has to be the raspberry, which belongs to the same family as the rose. I love the soft texture and velvet sweetness in my mouth. I particularly like them in vanilla yoghurt which is for me a breakfast treat. Raspberries were once cultivated for the mass market in Scotland, and a special train ” The Raspberry Special” ran loaded with the precious cargo daily “down south.” Raspberries contain more vitamin c than oranges, and are also high in folic acid and potassium. They have been with us even longer than the strawberry, being eaten in pre-historic times. You can also buy, red, purple, gold or black raspberries! I will be looking out for them. The gold are apparently the sweetest.
We use and serve a variety of fruit in the café, from an attractive fruit bowl as part of one of our many lunch time buffets, to fruit crumble, which is still one of our most popular puddings. I love the citric yellow of the lemon slices we hang on the side of the piquant prawns Lemons help to cut the sweetness of our classic treacle tart. They enhance the flavour of smoked salmon in our salads. A twist of lime over cheese cake makes it look special, and they are an essential ingredient of the dressing for the Asian Slaw.
Blossom has long gone, but the promise of good things to come is everywhere. From the green nubs on the apple tree, to the elder flower showing its party dress before revealing the dark berries of autumn. by which time we will be thinking of making jams and syrups, jellies and cordials.
A pretty way of persevering fruit is to make it into candied peel. Stored in air tight jars it lasts for months, making edible cake decorations and great gifts. In my last incarnation as a retailer, we sold in the autumn months 100’s of kilos of candied peel. I loved the luscious slices of yellow lemon and warm orange. We had a good reputation for selling a wide range of quality peel and candied fruit. One of our best sellers ? Candied Strawberries.