Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Berry Berry Good!!

Strawberries that look good, are horrendously crappy in taste
N and I are spoilt rotten for the taste of real good strawberries. For a fruit that is seen as a symbol of feministic attributes, happiness and childhood cartoon fantasies, it is a shame that good strawberries can be rarely be appreciated due to its highly perishable nature and delicate structure. More often than not, what we get in Singapore as an importing country are strawberries that look good but horrendously crappy in taste.
Crappy in the sense that despite the bright colours, it is unpleasantly sour to the extent that many Singaporeans have grown to thinking that strawberries are naturally sour despite the sweet images of it painted in cartoons and media fantasies. The truth is many Singaporeans have not really had the chance to experience what is really a good strawberry.
The ones from NZ, OZ & US...
The ones that we get all year round from New Zealand, Australia and US are of export quality which in real sense is not really the best. They have to be picked before reaching to a good maturity stage so that they have a longer shelf life in their final destinations. Thus the fruit does not have enough sunshine for the natural flavours and sugars to be fully developed to an ideal ripeness giving it the deserved sweetness and aromas as often associated with in ice creams, jams, fillings and essences.
Good strawberries?
Good strawberries are hard to come by in Singapore as we are not able to grown the fruit here due to the unfriendly weather.Malaysia has tried to cultivate them in Cameron Highlands but the project has seen hardly any other economic success other than being a novelty draw to regional tourists who are there only because of their children.

Now, we get Korean & Japanese ones...
Well the situation is not really that grim as the recent years of affluence have created a demand in taste for more premium strawberries. Hence now we get shipments of Korean strawberries around this time of the year till the end of May.
Occasionally the Japanese supermarkets like Meidiya and Isetan will also ship in Japanese strawberries when in season. The strawberries from these two countries can cost twice as much than those of from regular importing countries. But as a firm believer than cost and quality are more often than not co-related, U get a lot more in taste, sweetness and aromas with these premium berries that have been harvested at their prime, carefully packed and shipped out to their final destinations in the shortest time possible between the fields and dining table. These strawberries have a much more intense aroma when u sniff at them. On taste, they yield a higher level of sweetness complimented with mild acidity. Fantasise them served simply just with crème fraiche or vanilla sugar sweetened whipped cream, it can just send one on an orgasmic culinary experience with one of the greatest food marriages made in heaven!
Premium grade ones...
Besides the Korean and Japanese strawberries, another premium grade of strawberries that I have come across during my travels are the French strawberries, found only in the farmers markets of the cities and towns of historic villages. These berries are highly seasonal, available only in the short window period of late spring to mid summer before the weather gets too hot. They are distinguished from the mainstream commercially farmed strawberries in terms of being a size smaller, rounder and having their stalks still attached on just like the premium quality durians displayed in Geylang. They are sold more by weight and packed often by the vendors who will not allow u to touch or pick them due to their highly perishable nature.
Size does matter
In terms of taste, size does matter for strawberries and the intensity of each berry is co-related with its own size. The ultimate champions are the “frais du bois” or wild bush strawberries that grown in the forests of France with a size no bigger than that of an almond nut.
These little sugar bombs as they are often known are packed with an intense aromas and sweetness so flavourful that it will totally render a gigantic US grown berry useless when challenged. The wild strawberries are native to France, though small amounts are found in UK and Spain where the right environments exists. They cannot be farmed and are handpicked with extra caution due to their extreme delicate nature which is why they must be consumed with 48 hours upon harvest.
Hence having the expectation of them being shipped anywhere else in the world is nothing but just a dream as they will not be able to survive the extended journey. In terms of flavour compatibility, strawberries have a natural affinity with spices like cinnamon, vanilla and black pepper, herbs like mint and basil and cooking condiments like aged balsamic vinegar.

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