British Summer Time. Go on, if you listen hard enough you can hear it. The gentle thwack of tennis balls on pressed grass, mowers humming, ice cubes chinking, your neighbour swearing at a deck chair. Yes, across the country we're finally shaking out our picnic blankets and planning lazy alfresco weekend brunches. So what better theme for our second edition of Breakfast Inspiration than the jewel of the food hamper, British berries.
In high society, darling, strawberries are as old as Wimbledon itself, becoming fashionable in the late 1800s when they were favoured as a courtside snack. These days Scotland is considered one of Europe's top berry growing regions, due to long hours of sunlight in early summer. And while soft fruits still seem decadent, and are a luxury in the winter, in season they're surprisingly easy on the wallet.
That's not the only reason to indulge. Sprinkled on your cereal or blended into a smoothie, berries are a nutritious breakfast ingredient. If you believe the hype, blueberries are a 'superfood' touted as a preventative for heart disease and cancer. Bridget Benelam, Senior Scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, helped us sort berry fact from fiction. "There is no specific definition of a superfood, and no way of testing whether a food is 'super' or not, so it can be a misleading term," she says. "It often refers to foods like blueberries that are rich in antioxidants."
What we can say for sure is that berries are fat free and packed with vitamin C to help fend of pesky summer colds. And the good news according to Bridget: "It's a variety of compounds from fruit that confer a health benefit rather that single one, so its great to include lots of different berries". In other words, why stop at a blueberry? Top your yoghurt with raspberry, currants, sweetened gooseberries or more unusual varieties such as strasberries and pineberries!
Don't fancy treading the supermarket aisle while the sun's out? There's nothing more satisfying than a trip to a pick-your-own farm for package-free fruit as fresh as it comes. But if you're city bound why not try GYO (grow your own) instead. Horticultural expert and fruit aficionado Mandy Richardson gave us some easy tips. South facing window boxes are the best, with most kinds of berries being surprisingly easy to cultivate in containers. "If you don't have much space," she says, "plant dwarf varieties instead such as Top Hat or Sunshine Blue." And remember to only wash the fruit just before your breakfast, otherwise they start to mould.
To keep that summer buzz all year, pop any spare berries into the freezer (it locks in their vitamin C) or try your hand at a spot of jam making. Blue or red, in a drink or dunked in cream, there's no doubt these little gems are this season's best accessory.