STRAWBERRIES

April 19, 2015

Strawberries are large, juicy, red berries that are very sweet when ripe and grow on a low-growing perennial plant. The berries that we eat are not actually the fruit. They are the swelling of the plant’s stalk that happens  after the flowers have been pollinated. The tiny seeds that cover the berries are actually the real fruit. [so not a botanical berry, but an aggregate accessory fruit] 

There are hundreds of different varieties of cultivated strawberries, which vary in size, shape, juiciness, texture, and sweetness. The first garden strawberry was grown in France [Britagne] during the late 18th century. Prior to this, wild strawberries and cultivated selections from wild strawberry species were the common source of the fruit.

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SEASON

Strawberries are available year-round but they will be at their best and most plentiful during the peak season, which is April through July.

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SHOPPING + STORAGE

A good strawberry should be bright looking and shiny. Avoid shriveled, dried up or moldy berries as well as soggy strawberries. Dull red berries are an indication that they are overripe. The strawberries should smell sweet, fruity, which is an indication that they will have a sweet flavor. They should be firm without bruises or soft spots, which cause the berries to deteriorate quickly.

Generally the size of the strawberries is not an indication of how sweet and flavorful they are, although very large strawberries tend to be less flavorful.

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Strawberries are best eaten the day they are purchased. If stored, first sort through them and discard any soft, bruised, damaged, or overripe berries. Place the remaining strawberries in the refrigerator [covered with foil]. Do not wash, prepare or remove the hulls until berries are going to be used. Best case they will keep for up to 7 days after purchase.  Strawberries are highly perishable so they should not be exposed to the sun or warm temperatures for any extended period of time.

If the strawberries are not going to be used within 2 or 3 days, they can be frozen to prevent them from spoiling. Freeze strawberries whole, sliced, or crushed and sweetened or unsweetened. Freezing strawberries will affect their texture but they will still be great for many uses [making jams, in pies, desserts, as a sauce to top ice cream, cakes, waffles and pancakes].

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CULINARY USE

Strawberries, a versatile fruit, can be used raw or cooked, frozen or fresh. Known for being a way to satisfy a sweet tooth without consuming too many calories,

Rinse strawberries under running water. Gently rub them to make sure each berry is clean and free of soil. After washing, immediately pat the strawberries dry with a paper towel. Do not wash the strawberries if it is not necessary because they are porous and will soak up water quickly. Never soak them in water!

Remove the strawberries from the refrigerator at least an hour before they are going to be consumed. They are most flavorful at room temperature.

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Raw – Ripe strawberries are most often eaten raw as a whole, sliced or crushed. When sugar is added to strawberries their natural juices are drawn out. Crushed berries will produce a sauce that can be eaten as is or poured over shortcake and ice cream.
Strawberries are used as an ingredient in many salads, pies, cakes, sorbets, and other desserts. They are used as appetizers or a garnish on appetizer and cheese platters. Strawberries mixed in a blender with ice cream, yogurt, milk or other fruits make delicious and healthy shakes.

Combine cream cheese, nuts and other fruit with strawberries to create dessert-like fruit dips.
You can mix strawberries with herbs and spices to create salsas and dips. Strawberry salsa is made by combining the berry with such ingredients as onions and cilantro. The salsa can be served with chips as an alternative to traditional salsa dip or used as a salad topping.
In Greece, strawberries are usually sprinkled with sugar and then dipped in Metaxa and served as a dessert. In Italy, strawberries have been used for various desserts, especially for making strawberry tiramisu, a special form of the original tiramisu and as a popular flavoring for gelato [gelato alla fragola].

Baked – Raw strawberries can be sliced to fill pies and cobblers. The fruit can also be added to cake and muffin recipes, along with strawberry extract, to flavor baked goods.

Cooked – The berries can be cooked and made into jellies and jams [you will have to add lemon juice and pectin]. It is also one of the most popular flavorings in candies and other sweet products.

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Dried – Dried strawberries are often added to snack mixes or cereal.

Juiced – strawberry juice or concentrates often get added to cocktails, such as Minute Maid Strawberry Passion and CoolBest Strawberry Hill.

Tip    – adding sugar, lemon juice or orange juice to strawberries will help preserve their bright color.
– one pint of fresh strawberries is equal to 2 1/2 cups whole, 1 3/4 cups sliced, 1 1/4 cups puréed, 24 medium, 36 small.

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RECIPES

strawberry almond cake
grilled strawberry jam
strawberry rhubarb fritters
strawberry tiramisu
berry – red wine sangria
sweet wontons
berry cinnamon swirl

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NUTRITIONAL VALUE

The strawberry fruit was mentioned in ancient Roman literature in reference to its medicinal use. The entire strawberry plant was used to treat depressive illnesses.

Strawberries are high in vitamin C, manganese and dietary fiber. There also have a high rate of antioxidant power.

Few studies have directly examined the effects of eating strawberries on human health. However, limited research indicates that strawberry consumption may be associated with a decreased cardiovascular disease risk and that phytochemicals present in strawberries have anti-inflammatory or anticancer properties in laboratory studies.

Nutritional value  per 100g  [% of Daily Value]

  • Energy                        33 kcal
  • Carbohydrates          7.68   g
  • Sugar                          4.89    g
  • Dietary fiber              2 g
  • Fat                               0.3 g
  • Protein                       0.67 g
  • Vitamin B 1               0.024 mg [2%]
  • Vitamin B 2               0.022 mg [2%]
  • Vitamin B 3               0.386 mg [3%]
  • Vitamin B 5               0.047 mg [4%]
  • Vitamin B6                0.047 mg [4%]
  • Vitamin B9                24 µg [6%]
  • Chlorine                     5.7 mg [1%]
  • Vitamin C                   58.8 g [71%]
  • Vitamin E                   0.29 mg [2%]
  • Vitamin K                   2.2 µg [2%]
  • Potassium                  153 mg [3%]
  • Sodium                       1 mg [0%]
  • Calcium                     16 mg [2%]
  • Manganese               0.39 mg [18%]
  • Iron                            0.41 mg [3%]
  • Zinc                            0.14 mg [1%]
  • Water                         90.95 g

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