Why Strawberries are More Powerful Than Any Comfort Food

May 26, 2016

Do you have a food that makes you so giddy you feel almost drunk when you eat it? Mine is strawberries.

This isn't comfort food. This is something so much more powerful.

Photo by James Ransom

Strawberries make me feel hopeful. They make me shimmy involuntarily and grin in a way that's almost embarrassing. Whenever I have them, I think everything is going to be okay, because how could things not turn out alright when something so beautiful exists?

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“Strawberries and cinnamon are hardly ever paired together but the warm spice really brings out the sweetness of the berries; like salt with chocolate/caramel. Cinnamon spiced whipped cream is delicious with a good batch of strawberry shortcakes.”
— AJ K.

The first day of strawberries is the happiest day of the year, and I do my best not to miss it. Starting mid-May, I stalk the greenmarket every day. I get there as early as possible in hopes of beating out the chefs who will certainly buy all of them before the normal people have a chance.

The thought alone has helped keep me going through messy, confusing, and unpleasant times: "Soon strawberries will be here and things are going to feel better," I tell myself. It's good to have something to look forward to, even better when you can really count on it being there for you. The seasons are pretty reliable, give or take a few weeks.

Photo by Kristy Mucci

The first day of strawberries happened last week (it was Friday, and it was an especially pretty day, to boot). When people asked about my plans for the weekend, my response was "Strawberries are here." I know that really isn't a plan, but I bought myself two quarts and really couldn't think beyond enjoying my favorite fruit.

Since living alone and figuring out my life post-marriage, people keep suggesting I take up yoga and meditation, and I just can't get into either. But I think sitting with a mound of strawberries has the same effect. Everything slows down, I am so focused, and I feel so much gratitude. I think it's my practice in mindfulness. Cooking has a therapeutic and meditative effect, too, but the first taste of strawberries outshines that—by a lot.

Photo by Yossy Arefi

I'll admit that my appreciation is a bit extreme. I do things like leave the A.C. on when I go out of the house to keep the strawberries happy (only on really hot days). One of my closest friends said she was glad strawberries showed up because I've been blue lately, and now she knows I'll be good for the next few months. There's a noticeable difference, and I don't understand why they have such power. I've been told that the main craving my mother had when she was pregnant with me was for strawberries, so maybe there's something really biological there. They're my most effective pick-me-up. Aren't we lucky that food can do this for us?

I'm perfectly content to eat strawberries as-is, and will mostly do just that all summer, but I'd love to know how other people plan to make the most of the season. I've got a lot of quarts in my future, and I'll be making way through them mostly alone (and very happy).

Tell us the best thing you make with strawberries in the comments below.


Peggy G. May 17, 2017
Paule Caillat's Brown Butter Tart: Crust<br />Link in Post Below: Strawberry/Marscarpone Tart by Eeshani.
Peggy G. May 17, 2017
Melinda L. June 10, 2016
Giada Delaurentiis's Strawberry Bruschetta, OMG!
EL June 10, 2016
I do like strawberries -- and (other than plain), two of my favorite ways to eat them are in traditional shortcake and also in salads (with a balsamic vinagrette dressing). I think raspberries or peaches or apples or (maybe whatever fruit is in season) is my favorite fruit though.
Rachel P. May 30, 2016
OK, I think I found it, if it is the one by eeshani? Let me know if anyone knows of sure and thank you!
Rachel P. May 30, 2016
Where can I find the recipe for the Strawberry/Marscarpone Tart? That sounds wonderful'
Lorin K. May 27, 2016
I like to make strawberry-rhubarb tart, with the strawberries sliced and prettily arranged on top of the rhubarb. It's Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe, I think.
Michelle May 26, 2016
I made several small batches of strawberry jam last week. Homemade jam on homemade bread. Amazing!<br />
marcellatp May 26, 2016
I was very happy a couple weeks ago when good tasting strawberries rolled in to the local farmers market. Just eating them plain is perfect but I always make one batch of freezer jam (low sugar pectin and less sugar than the recipe calls for) for stirring into yogurt in the winter and also strawberry shortcake must be made once during the summer.
AntoniaJames May 26, 2016
I'll be making a Fraisier cake (GBBO fans may remember it as a technical challenge in Season 3) for a dinner party in June . . . . but frankly, the best thing to do with strawberries is to eat them just as they are, one by one, savoring each perfectly delicious bite. <br />The Albions and Seascapes from Lucero at Temescal UVFM have been perfect these past two weeks. Like cv, I only buy when the local varieties that don't travel well are luscious. Waiting for them, not settling for anything else the rest of the year, makes them that much more special! (Same with tomatoes . . . . .) ;o)
Christina D. May 26, 2016
I feel that way about blueberries. I can't explain it. But I totally related to "Soon strawberries will be here and things are going to feel better."
Almila K. May 26, 2016
Such an eloquent and full of heart as always, Kristy. This made me achingly miss my childhood in Istanbul, where the strawberries are smaller and dripping with its sweet flavour. I'd pack a bag bigger than my face, bring it to the beach, and I had my day made simply eating them. Long story short, I relate to our weekend plans being that strawberries (and thus comfort) has arrived.
ChefJune May 26, 2016
I don't know what market you were at, Kristy, but there were no strawberries at Union Square on Saturday, and was told it would be 3 weeks until the Tri-Stars are ready. I am SO ready for them. However, peaches share that excitement for me - especially the Blews' peaches.
Author Comment
Kristy M. May 26, 2016
I got them at union square! But very early.
Kenzi W. May 26, 2016
They're also at Prospect Park!
ChefJune May 26, 2016
which vendor?
Kenzi W. May 26, 2016
I saw them in two places—both facing the park, toward the roundabout. Apologies; their names are escaping me. (I'm fairly new to the neighborhood—used to frequent the Fort Greene market.)
Alix May 28, 2016
Strawberry sighting at Borough Hall Greenmarket on Saturday, as well!
AJ K. May 26, 2016
My most popular baking projects with strawberries include strawberry cream scones and a strawberry marscarpone tart with Paule Caillat's Brown Butter Tart Crust that i found right here on food52 :)<br /><br />One of my favorite tips with strawberries is to add a generous pinch of ground cinnamon somewhere in the mix. Strawberries and cinnamon are hardly ever paired together but the warm spice really brings out the sweetness of the berries; like salt with chocolate/caramel. Cinnamon spiced whipped cream is delicious with a good batch of strawberry shortcakes.
Author Comment
Kristy M. May 26, 2016
Paule is a very dear friend of mine! I love her crust, and the sound of your tart!
cv May 26, 2016
Here in Northern California, we have locally grown strawberries year round. Also, my town's farmers market also runs year round, so access to strawberries isn't an issue. I could buy them in January but they aren't very tasty.<br /><br />I limit my strawberry buying to the few months when they are at their peak, not to their general availability. Once April has passed, I'll try a sample berry every week at my usual strawberry stand at farmers market and make the call on when to start buying based on taste. <br /><br />At some point in the summer, the strawberries will start looking a little worse for wear and that's when I stop, maybe one more basket as a last hurrah for the peak season.<br /><br />I buy all of my produce at my farmers market and particularly with the fruit, I prefer to eat them fresh versus cooking them.