I was so inspired by all the strawberries that have surrounded me recently that I felt the urge to paint something relating to strawberries: the form, the colour, the joy they bring. Sadly, not much joy for me, not to eat anyway. Back in the days before marriage and children, before serious education and a career, I worked on a strawberry farm in the county of Shropshire. There I weighed the pickers’ strawberries, and all those fruits that were not quite so perfect or those that over split the punnets ended up in my mouth. You see; I love strawberries and for some unbeknown reason to me I became allergic to them. Apparently, so a kind pharmacist informed my father, I had over dosed; yes, I had over dosed on strawberries. It is a common problem, so I have read many times, yet I am the only person I know and have ever known to have the condition. Not being medically or scientifically inclined, I am more the arty type, I have learnt that the allergic reaction is something to do with the proteins that are in this most wonderful fruit. The proteins that ripen it, giving the fruit its captivating red colour and making it look enticingly delicious; but is so poisonous to me. Having children made matters a little complicated in my strawberry-banned world as they love them. Before my daughters arrived I was able to avoid strawberries, but now I buy them every week and almost every day I wash them and serve them as an after school fruit bowl snack. And every day I drool over them, just dreaming of those long lost days of strawberry pleasure. Friends and colleagues have frequently served strawberries and I have to politely decline. This always results in a long conversation about how irregular it all is and what happens to me if a do eat the forbidden red fruit. My reaction to the fruit is more discomfort then severe. A red, itchy rash appears across my jaw line, neck, up my arms and across my back, and I feel nauseous with a pounding head. They make me feel exhausted and sleepy. Handling strawberries is fine, but a big bowl of strawberries and cream results in a very unwell me.To help me understand my allergy I decided to do a bit of research and actually discovered that there are quite a lot of people like me; and that, in its severest form, strawberries can kill, but I have never heard of anyone succumbing to a strawberry. Putting my ailment aside, strawberries are packed full of goodness that help to decrease the possibility of heart disease, they have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce the risk of cancer, inflammation and hypertension and can help lower cholesterol. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and high in manganese; a nutrient that very few people know about; but one that helps with normal bone formation and helps us to metabolise protein, carbohydrates and cholesterol. So it appears that I am missing out big time; not just that they are so delicious but in a bizarre way I am less healthy than I would be if I ate them, that is if they didn’t make me so ill if I were to eat them! For those of you who are like me and just cannot consume the heavenly fruit you’ll just have to enjoy looking at them instead.
And for those of you who can eat strawberries have you tried them dipped in chocolate? I imagine them to be delectable. Simply break some chocolate (milk, white or dark) into chunks and place them into a glass bowl which is over a saucepan of gently simmering water and leave until the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat. Holding the strawberry stalk dip the fruit one by one into the chocolate until half to three quarters coated. Set aside on a tray lined with baking paper and allow to harden. Eat and enjoy, if you can!
For those of us who cannot eat strawberries we could try dipping other fruit into chocolate instead. I expect raspberries and dark chocolate will be divine, so tomorrow I will be off to the shops to grab some ingredients. After all, why should we be excluded from a fruity chocolate fix?