The ideal strawberry has a deep-red color with a strong, floral aroma. It’s about one-inch around and firm to the touch and bite. Its juices are sugary and sweet. And in North Carolina, it only lasts four to six weeks.
But members of the North Carolina Strawberry Project want to stretch strawberry season throughout the year. The project is a partnership between scientists at North Carolina State University, chefs at Johnson & Wales University, and local farmers to breed a better berry with a longer growing season.
More than 600 students and faculty members at Johnson & Wales University began by isolating the traits of an ideal strawberry from a chef’s perspective. Students tasted the berries and came up with creative recipes to highlight the perfect size, flavor, and texture of a strawberry for food preparation. Researchers in N.C. State’s strawberry-breeding program used the data to choose the parent plants for the ideal North Carolina strawberry. And in the next five to 10 years, researchers hope to produce a strawberry with enhanced flavor, texture, color, and size that will last all year.
Chef Mark Allison, dean of culinary education at Johnson & Wales University, developed this recipe to showcase the flavor of North Carolina strawberries.
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup mascarpone or cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon strawberry-flavored liqueur
- pint strawberries, hulled and halved
- 6 sweet pastry shells
- ½ cup strawberry jelly
- 2 teaspoons water
Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat heavy cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. In medium bowl, combine cheese and liqueur; beat until soft. Fold whipped cream into cheese mixture. Place a few strawberry halves on the bottom of each shell; fill with cream mixture. Top with strawberry halves or strawberries cut into a fan shape. In small saucepan, over medium-low heat, cook jelly with 2 teaspoons water until jelly melts. Brush jelly over strawberries. Garnish with remaining strawberries. Yield: 6 servings.
Visit plantsforhumanhealth.ncsu.edu to learn more about the North Carolina Strawberry Project.
Ashton Astbury is an editorial intern at Our State magazine.