“Strawberries always fill my heart with joy” — Anthony T. Hincks

Could it be that Mother Nature knows we are in need of a giant dose of joy? For very soon she will deliver fields and fields of luscious, lovely, local strawberries. Between the magnificent perfume of these precious beauties, and their astonishing sweetness, joy is just around the corner.

Sweet, sublime strawberries are one of the spectacular highlights of June. Pretty and powerful, fresh strawberries are a mighty source of life enhancing nutrients. Rich in vitamin C, more strawberries in your diet may give a gorgeous glow to your skin and hair. Full of dietary fiber, strawberries also supply iodine, potassium, folate, riboflavin, vitamin B5 and B6, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K, magnesium and copper. Sodium, cholesterol and fat free, low calorie strawberries are a superb choice for a healthy snack.

For those of you who have been anticipating a trip to a pick-your-own strawberry field, the season is a couple of weeks behind, due to the weather. Call your favorite farm ahead during these days of social distancing for instructions and availability. For local farm information, consult pickyourown.org/CT.

Whether you purchase strawberries from a farm stand, supermarket or pick your own, you will have an inspiring ingredient that lends itself to both sweet and savory dishes. I always set aside one evening to enjoy a simple supper of strawberry shortcake during the season! Fresh strawberries can be frozen into popsicles, blended into smoothies, spooned over yogurt or cereal, folded into tea breads, cakes, waffles, crepes, pancakes or muffins.

Strawberries roasted with balsamic vinegar are transformed into a compote filled with astonishing flavor. Strawberry salsa and chutneys combine the very best of sweet heat for grilled meats, fish or as a topping for bruschetta. Summer salads sparkle with the addition of strawberry slices. Combine them with tender baby lettuces, plenty of fresh herbs such as bail, parsley, tarragon, lemon balm and mint and drizzle with a dressing of strawberry juice, canola oil, and a dash of cream.

Whether you pick or purchase strawberries, remember they are delicate and highly perishable. Look for berries that are brightly colored, with glossy, green tops and no sign of mold. They should be quite fragrant. Bring your berries home and store them, unwashed, on a paper towel lined tray in the refrigerator and use within 2-3 days. Just before preparing them, rinse gently and thoroughly, pat dry and remove the stem and top. For easy top removal, insert a straw through the bottom of the berry and push right through the top, it should pop right off!

Feel the joy of preparing a delicious life with strawberries this June!

Joyful June Bruschetta

Serves 10

1 baguette, sliced

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups fresh strawberries, washed tops removed and finely chopped

4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon brown or white sugar

Sea salt

1 cup ricotta cheese

¼ cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Freshly ground black pepper

Brush baguette slices with olive oil on both sides. Grill 1-2 minutes per side, until grill marks appear or toast in the oven until golden. Set aside when done. In a bowl, stir together strawberries, balsamic vinegar and sugar until sugar dissolves. Season with a pinch of salt.

Spread some ricotta on top of each baguette slice. Spoon strawberries on top. Season with black pepper and a bit of salt. Garnish with basil and serve.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, organic gardener and a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers College.