June is the month when juicy strawberries are ripe for the picking.
Summer wouldn’t be summer without them – bursting with sunshine flavour, a cup of strawberries drizzled with cream is Wimbledon’s iconic dish, and big bowls of ripe red fruit will be gracing many celebration tables for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Hampshire’s strawberries have been harvested in the Hamble Valley for over 150 years, and this part of the county is known as the 'Strawberry Coast'.
In the late 19th century, the world-famous Hamble Valley strawberries were a booming industry, with the railways playing an important part in delivering the fruit across the country on ‘strawberry specials’.
Swanwick station was built in 1888 to export the strawberries and, during the harvest between the end of May and mid-July, it was one of the busiest stations in the country.
Every day, more than 20,000 berries would be loaded onto the train bound for Covent Garden and top hotels in London.
Today, you can still follow the Strawberry Trail, a 15-mile figure of eight trail running through Hamble along the riverbank from Botley to Netley.
Taking in some of the region’s most beautiful countryside, the trail is perfect for picnickers, so why pack up a hamper and make a day of it?
Try this recipe for sensational strawberry tarts – so easy to take with you for a summer lunch by the river.
1 block readymade sweet shortcrust pastry
500g strawberries, hulled and halved
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup double cream
Fresh mint leaves, small
Preheat oven to 180ºC, Gas 4
Roll out pastry to line a 23cm fluted flan/tart tin or individual tart cases and bake blind for 15 mins until the pastry is golden brown. Remove paper and baking beans and pop back in the oven for a further five minutes. Remove and leave to cool.
Combine mascarpone, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a bowl or large jug and whisk until smooth. Gradually add cream, whisking constantly. Pour into the tart shell and bake for 25 mins, until set and lightly golden. Cool.
Top with halved strawberries and small mint leaves to decorate.