Pickled green strawberries are all the rage these days. The chefs are using their creative souls on this trendy ingredient and the food writers and bloggers are spreading the word. This seasonal darling is landing in chutneys, salsas, and whole green pickled nuggets. These pickles are seasoned with anything from tarragon to orange rind and are served with seafood, parsnip puree, or desserts. Reading the blogs it would seem anything goes.
Since we are talking about pickling we thought we would throw our lacto-fermented two cents into the mélange. This is for the fermentistas out there. You know who you are. You have tossed vinegar aside in favor of lacto-ferments in crocks and jars. You have a bit of an addiction and you look at all veggies with an eye to ferment. “I wonder what fill-in-the-blank would taste like fermented.” All right, maybe that is just my quirky personality and the rest of you fermentistas are more reasonable.
“I need green strawberries,” I told my friend Mary in early spring. She doesn’t question these kinds of requests, she is used them. Besides, her fermentation mantra is “the experiments must continue.” We went and looked down two rows of plants that seemed to reach the horizon line. They were green – way too green, hard, and small. I had to wait.
The culinary green strawberries are actually white. This is the stage right before the orange blush that eventually turns red and ripe. They are tasty, not pithy or astringent like some unripe fruit. I would describe them as slightly acidic and faintly sweet – a cross between a not-quite-ripe honeydew melon and a kiwi. The texture sides with the melon. They have not yet developed their sugars and that is exactly why one can get away with fermenting them. (Too much sugar in a lactic-acid ferment and it turns alcoholic.)
Look for green strawberries in your own garden, at a u-pick, or at a farmers’ market. To ferment them, either slice them thinly or dice them. Mix in a teaspoon of salt per pound and a half of berries. Allowing them to make their own brine this way will give you a much stronger flavor. Play with your favorite salsa or chutney ingredients. Here we are working on green strawberry tulsi basil chutney, green strawberry mango salsa and kimchi. The recipes we are working on for the upcoming cookbook haven’t been refined yet, but green strawberry kimchi is our favorite so far.