All kids seem to love this summer beauty, being red, sweet, and juicy! In fact, strawberries are the most popular berry fruit in the world. It’s no wonder since they’re a fun size to eat, and can brighten up both the taste and aesthetics of any meal! The red flesh contains yellow seeds that peek through the surface. Then there’s the regal, green leafy fringed crown and stem that provides a great handle when dipping….
HOW TO CHOOSE
Although strawberries have become increasingly available year-round, the peak BC local harvest is mid June through July when they are the most delicious and most abundant. Often picked the same day they arrive at Ralph’s, these berries are more likely to be sweet and juicy than their jet-lagged relatives.
Choose firm, shiny, fully red, plump, fragrant berries, without any darker, sunken, or runny spots. Ensure that the leafy caps are attached and convey freshness. Here’s a little secret: the flavour of the smaller berries is better than that of the larger varieties since the larger ones tend to contain more water. Nonetheless, they sure have eye appeal on a fruit platter and dip well.
Avoid soft, shrivelled, or mouldy berries, which indicate that their quick deterioration has begun. Contamination of their neighbouring berries is likely. Inspect the entire container of strawberries, top and bottom. Strawberries do not ripen once picked. Overripe berries will appear dull red.
Fresh strawberries should be consumed as soon as possible after purchasing to ensure the best flavour, appearance, and nutrient content. To safeguard against contamination, sort through the strawberries and discard any soft, bruised, or damaged berries. If you do not plan to use the berries immediately, experiment with the following schools of thought:
- Remove them from containers, arrange them on paper towel in a single layer in a flat container, cover, and refrigerate; use within one to two days.
- Another school of thought, however, is to store them in the container in which they come in a cold part of the refrigerator (near the back).
- Yet another method is to place them (preferably in a single layer on a paper towel) in a moisture proof container in the refrigerator for two to three days.
Unripe strawberries may need to be kept out of the fridge for a day or so to, hopefully, develop a wee bit more colour.
If you do not use them within a few days, take off the stems and freeze them to prevent them from spoiling. Besides, frozen berries are perfect for smoothies! Strawberries freeze well – up to a year. You can do so with or without sugar:
- Without sugar – Loosely place whole, firm berries on a cookie sheet, in a single layer, and put in the freezer. Once frozen, long term storage should be in a sealable plastic bag or freezable airtight container. You’ll enjoy these “individually frozen” berries to scoop out only your required future needs.
- With sugar – Mix equal amounts of sugar and water in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat to dissolve sugar and create a clear mixture. Set aside to cool completely. Scoop 1 cup of sliced fresh strawberries into a 2-cup-size freezer bag. Pour 1/2 to 2/3 of a cup of the sugar/water mixture into the bag-just enough to completely cover the strawberries. Seal and lay the bag flat to freeze, keeping berries in a single layer. Enjoy the ready-made compote syrup at a moment’s notice!
Prepare just prior to immediate use as they will spoil within a day of getting wet.. Gently rinse in a cool spray of water, pat dry, keeping the leaf cap attached as long as possible to discourage the berry from absorbing too much water. Allow berries to reach room temperature before serving, enabling the berry to provide the best flavour possible.
When ready to use, remove the stems and hulls (the soft, white, part of the berry at the base of the stem.
Removing the stem can be done by holding the strawberry between your thumb and forefinger and twisting off the stem with the opposite hand. Other options are to simply cut the stem off with a utility knife or hull with tweezers.
Thawing pre-frozen strawberries in the refrigerator will allow them to retain their shape better. When thawing at room temperature, cover and refrigerate unused thawed berries within two hours. Be patient with the thawing process, since running water over the outside of the container will allow bacteria to grow. After thawing, refrigerated and use within three days. Do not re-freeze. Thawed strawberries may appear slightly darker and duller than a fresh berry.
The uses for strawberries are overwhelming. Ripe strawberries are often eaten raw as whole (loved for lunches), sliced or crushed berries.
A Few Quick Serving Ideas
- Tossed into breakfast shakes
- Cooked and made into jellies and jams
- Appetizers or a garnish on appetizer and cheese platters
- Summer salads (i.e. with spinach)
- Delicious main courses (mixed with pasta and spicy chicken, for example!)
- Mixed with blueberries in parfaits
- Dipped in chocolate or sugar
- Sliced with pears and drizzled with honey
- Served with plain or whipped cream, macerated in wine or liqueur, and in a variety of desserts
- When sugar is added to strawberries, their natural juices are drawn out and crushed berries will produce a sauce that can be eaten as is or poured over shortcake or ice cream – often a delicious accompaniment to Belgian waffles
- Pies (i. e. Strawberries and rhubarb), cakes, sorbets, and other desserts – like tarts or the famous strawberry shortcake
- Strawberries mixed in a blender with ice cream, yogurt, milk or other fruits make delicious and healthy shakes, smoothies, or drinks
- Once strawberries are sliced, the addition of sugar will help release their natural juices. In shortcake mixtures, for instance, have some berries cut fine, others whole or in large chunks, and to let the berries combine with the sugar for a few minutes to encourage the intense flavour.
- Heighten the flavour of strawberries by sprinkling with a dash of pepper, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, or orange juice.
- Adding sugar, lemon juice, or orange juice to strawberries will help preserve their bright colour.
- Do not soak strawberries in water when cleaning. The berries are so porous that water would occur, causing them to become waterlogged and lose some of their flavour.
- If substituting frozen strawberries for fresh berries in a recipe, substitute as follows:
- Unsweetened strawberries – Use equal amounts of frozen berries as called for fresh.
- Sweetened berries – Reduce the amount of sugar called for in the recipe by 1 cup for each quart of strawberries. Similarily, if sugar syrup has been used to sweeten the frozen berries, reduce the amount of liquid called for in the recipe.
- 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.
- Twelve pounds of fresh strawberries are equal to approximately 8 quarts. This quantity will produce approximately 13 pints of frozen strawberries.
Fanned Strawberry Garnish
- With a paring knife, slice clean, dry strawberry from a point slightly below the top stem to the bottom. Repeat making thin slits from one end of the strawberry to the other.
- Carefully spread out the strawberry portions to create a delightful fan-like appearance.
High in vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber, they are a good source of folic acid, manganese, vitamins B5, B1, and B6. Strawberries protect the brain from oxidative stress and help you age gracefully while improving brain function, motor skills and learning. Strawberries, like blueberries, contain powerful antioxidants that protect us from free radicals. Strawberries help protect our heart, are an anti-inflammatory, and protect us against cancer. Like spinach, strawberries also contain oxalic acid and therefore can minimize calcium absorption. Strawberries are commonly allergen and it is advised that we don’t offer them to children less than one year of age.
Strawberries (about 8 whole berries), 1 cup (149g)
Total Fat: 0.53g
*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value, based upon United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the USDA Recommended Daily Value. Nutritional information and daily nutritional guidelines may vary in different countries. Please consult the appropriate organization in your country for specific nutritional values and the recommended daily guidelines.
- Like chocolate, strawberries were reserved for royalty and the wealthy until the mid-19th century.
- As do many other members of the erratic rose family, strawberries tend to “stray,” hence the reason for its descriptive name.
- Possibly cultivated as early as the Roman era, Europe accidentally crossbred them 18th century when accidental crossbreeding (between North America’s Fragaria virginiana and South America’s Fragaria chiloensis).
- A low-growing perennial plant that, instead of stems, has horizontal runners that spread along the ground. To maintain good crops, the strawberry plants are replaced about every 3 or 4 seasons.
- The berries that we eat are not actually the fruit. They are the post-pollination swelling of the plant’s stalk. The actual fruit are the tiny seeds that cover the berries.