strawberry fields forever

Last night heralded a ‘strawberry moon’ – the first since the heady summer of 1967. Perhaps auspiciously (or quite possibly entirely by happenstance) it coincided with the summer solstice this year. I’d never heard of a strawberry moon before .. and I’m guessing that’s the case for a fair few people as well. The only time I’ve ever seen the moon appear a pinkish hue has been in Australia when there’s a fair amount of bushfire smoke in the atmosphere, and that certainly wasn’t the case this week in the UK!

It turns out that 2016 sees the first full moon coinciding with the summer solstice since 1948. And given that the sun is at it’s maximum in all things on the solstice, the full moon last night was at it’s minimum in all things. While the sun was at it’s highest, most ‘curving’ arc yesterday, the full moon was at it’s lowest, flattest arc. This meant that the moon was viewed at a flat angle through thicker air throughout last night  – leading to the moon appearing a gorgeous golden colour. Throughout time this has been known as the Honey Moon.

So why call it a ‘strawberry moon’? Why not keep calling it a Honey Moon?strawberry wave

Many tribes of Native Americans measured the year by a lunar calendar, with the June full moon heralding the start of the wild strawberry season. Now this sounds quite right and proper!

20160610_121923The strawberry season is actually well underway already in the UK. I know this, because my little guy and I managed to collect a decent haul at our local pick-your-own farm 10 days ago. At this point, I should express my gratitude for our local PYO farm – our garden isn’t (yet) in a state to be host to a mini allotment.

So going to the PYO farm gives me the chance to start educating my kids about where their food comes from, whether it’s grown above, under or on the ground, what the plants look like, how can you tell when the fruits, vegetables and berries are ready for harvesting … and just how satisfying it is to eat food that you have gathered yourself. And seeing the tractors in action is pretty awesome too!

With thanks to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. If you’re intrigued to learn more of the traditional (perhaps slightly north American) names for the various full moons throughout the year, here’s a webpage with a listing of them.

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the humble radish

That these are called (in the UK, anyway) French Breakfast radishes is a complete misnomer. As far as I can ascertain the French don’t eat them for breakfast. Nor are they particularly and solely French. But this aside, radishes are now in season and my weekly shop would not be complete without a leafy bunch of radishes sitting proudly atop the other sundry vege.

radish bunch 2

Radishes fall within the mustard family of plants, although we eat the roots (and sometimes leaves)of the radish, rather than the seeds (and sometimes leaves) of most mustard plants.

Generally, radishes have a light, crisp, texture and a peppery flavour. Select firm roots that are blemish free. If you prefer your radishes very crisp a good way of ensuring that they are is to soak them in iced water for a couple of hours before preparing them.

It’s best to prepare radishes as close to serving them as possible, as the gorgeous peppery flavour has a tendency to dissipate somewhat if they are left for a time. Because of this I always leave the radishes until last when compiling a salad, or using them as a garnish for warm grains.

Other ideas are to simply wash the roots, trim the leaves and serve them as a snack or side with a meal – they are a great palate cleanser. Alternatively you can slice them lengthwise and either salt them or butter them. You can have them sliced thinly and layered on an open, buttered baguette.

Another option is to sauté them in unsalted butter (as you might do with asparagus or green beans). Or you could finely slice the roots and the leaves and add them to a stir fry. And of course, the leaves can always be washed and added to a salad in and of themselves for a spicy kick.

There’s so much you can do with these root vegetables. I’d love to know how you serve yours.

single radish