"Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did." -Izaak Walton One of the most delicious moments in a conscious cook's life happens in June, when farm markets offer fresh local strawberries. The intoxicating scent of bright scarlet berries fills the air with a magnificent perfume, and the taste, the sweet, juicy, divinely decadent taste of a fresh strawberry makes one praise the mighty glory of nature's bounty. Perhaps no other food evokes such a sensuous and scintillating dining experience as a bowlful of freshly picked strawberries. Affectionately known as the "Queen of Berries," strawberries reign as one of the most luscious and lovely of all early summer crops. A member of the rose family, strawberries have apparently been enjoyed since 234 BC. The ancient Romans used strawberries to alleviate symptoms of fainting, fevers, throat infections, kidney stones and halitosis! With their capability to charm and captivate our sense of smell, sight and taste, is it any wonder that strawberries were revered as an aphrodisiac by 13th Century French newlyweds, and continue to be adored today? Sumptuously satisfying strawberries are incredibly healthful as well. Low in calories and high in fiber content, strawberries are sodium, cholesterol and fat free. Plenty of servings of strawberries may help ease inflammation, lower cardiovascular disease, promote bone and eye health and boost short term memory. Strawberries are a vibrant, versatile ingredient, infusing tarts, pies, breads, cakes, frozen desserts, salads, salsas, and beverages such as sangria and lemonade, with delectable flavor. A simple dessert of fresh strawberries, served with brown sugar laced sour cream, is perfect for summer parties. Strawberries pair well with other berries and fruits for sumptuous shortcakes. Prepare a spectacular hors d'oeuvre by grilling or baking a wedge of brie until warm and oozing, and top with strawberry rhubarb chutney. This tart-sweet chutney also pairs beautifully with grilled pork or chicken. For a sensational sandwich, spread a baguette with goat or cream cheese, top with balsamic roasted strawberries and a sprinkling of thinly sliced basil. Whether you choose to buy your strawberries from your local farmers market or enjoy a pick your own experience, keep in mind that strawberries are delicate and highly perishable. Plan to enjoy your beautiful berries within two days, and store in the refrigerator, unwashed, until ready to use. Freezing whole berries on a cookie sheet will provide you with sunshine filled smoothies, sauces and soups in the months to come. Savor nature's gift and prepare a delicious life with farm fresh strawberries. Sunshine and Strawberries Rhubarb Chutney 2 tablespoons canola oil 1\/2 cup sugar 1\/4 cup red wine vinegar 1 cinnamon stick (3 inches) 1 small piece of fresh peeled ginger root 1\/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest 2-1\/4 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb 2\/3 cup sliced fresh strawberries 1-1\/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, ginger root and lemon zest. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until sugar is dissolved for about 2 minutes. Add the rhubarb, strawberries and rosemary. Cook and stir over medium heat until rhubarb is tender and mixture is slightly thickened, 15-20 minutes. Discard cinnamon stick and ginger root and serve with pork, chicken or as an hors d'oeuvre topping. 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.