Springtime means farmers market season, and April means strawberries. The Statesboro Main Street Farmers Market, located in the Sea Island Bank parking area downtown, is alive and well once again with those friendly farmers’ familiar faces, delivering the freshest and best organic produce, meats and cheeses every Saturday morning.
Nothing gets my heart racing like first sight of the season’s bounty. Bright red plump, juicy, sweet strawberries are in season now, and they’re one of the prettiest and healthiest fruits available. Since ancient Roman times, wild strawberries were used for a wide variety of medicinal purposes such as alleviating inflammation, fever and kidney stones. Rich in vitamin C and supportive of heart health, today there are more than 600 varieties. Experts say consuming them on a regular basis can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Highlighted in sweet and savory dishes, there is no shortage of recipes where strawberries are the main ingredient. I like to eat them simply sliced over a bowl of cereal or simmered down with sugar to make strawberry preserves, used as a pop of color to garnish cakes, chopped with onions and tomatoes to make salsa or sliced and tossed with candied Georgia pecans, dried cranberries and feta cheese in a mixed green salad.
Perhaps the most popular way to make use of them in the South though, is the tried and true strawberry shortcake. I can’t count the number of times my mama has served up macerated strawberries spooned over the top of hot, buttery biscuits with a dollop of fresh, sweetened whipped cream for Sunday dinner on that classic blue and white China pattern.
If you have an overabundance of strawberries or need to use them up before they go bad, whip up my Strawberry Basil Sauce. Luscious, slightly sweet and oozing with strawberry flavor, it’s paired with fresh basil from my garden and a hint of lemon juice. The cornstarch helps the sauce to thicken, resulting in a velvety smooth finish, while the acidity from the lemon juice cuts the sweetness slightly, balancing the flavors. The sauce comes together in minutes and can be used in so many ways:
• Serve it spooned over hot, grilled chicken.
• Pour it over cold vanilla ice cream.
• Add rum and make a strawberry cocktail.
• Pour it into ice cube trays and freeze for a flavorful addition to any drink.
• Pour it over store-bought pound cake.
Some Kinda Good Strawberry-Basil Sauce
- 4 pints or 1/2 gallon of fresh strawberries, hulled and washed
- 1 cup sugar
- Slurry: 1 tsp. cornstarch, dissolved in 1 tsp. water
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- 6 leaves of fresh basil
- Pinch of kosher salt
Place strawberries and sugar in a large stockpot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to combine. Add cornstarch slurry and reduce temperature to medium-low. Allow the sauce to cook and thicken for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Carefully pour the sauce into a food processor or blender, adding lemon juice, zest, salt and basil. Pulse to desired consistency.
For more springtime recipes, visit my food blog at Somekindagood.com. I’ll leave you with the words of the late Robin Williams, “Spring is nature's way of saying, 'Let's party!'”
Food Network Star finalist Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a food enthusiast and writer. Her blog, Some Kinda Good, features Southern, coastal recipes, locally sourced and in-season. Like Some Kinda Good on Facebook, follow @SKGFoodBlog on Twitter and Instagram or visit RebekahLingenfelser.com.