The strawberry is one of the first fruits to ripen in the spring. Though some varieties are available year round, the best of the large berries appear en masse on grocery shelves and roadside stands from March to June. A member of the rose family, the strawberry plant grows in patches where it propagates itself through long runners. This makes for a unique fruit where the seeds, nearly 200 per berry, are on the outside.
Popular because of their juicy flesh and mild flavor, strawberries are a culinary favorite appearing in recipes, both sweet and savory, from appetizers to desserts. They handle contrasting flavors well making them a good compliment to sour items like rhubarb and sweets like cream or kiwi. Strawberries freeze well and are good in ice creams and shakes, and impart both flavor and texture in soups and sauces.
The drawback to strawberries is their tendency to bruise easily and a fairly short shelf life. And within five to seven days of purchase, strawberries need to be eaten, frozen or preserved (and strawberry jam is number one in the U.S., according to the International Jelly and Preserve Association).
Strawberries are a nutritional powerhouse with only 54 calories per half cup, but 154 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C, 3 grams of dietary fiber and 1 gram of protein. They’re also a fantastic source of folate and trace minerals, according to this fact sheet on nurtritionadata.self.com.
Most commercial strawberries are grown in California with Florida second on the list. They grow well in Utah, though they have a later growing season. If you compare a Utah berry to a California berry the Utah berry will be smaller, sweeter and solid nearly all the way through. In contrast, California berries tend to be larger, less sweet and hollow. (For more strawberry facts from the University of Illinois extension office, visit urbanext.illinois.edu/strawberries/facts.cfm)
When preparing strawberries it is important to remember that they are not washed when they are picked. Therefore, fresh strawberries should be gently washed to remove dirt and any traces of pesticides before being eaten.
With prices at yearly lows it’s a great time to try strawberries in something new, or revisit favorite recipes to take advantage of this seasonal treat.
Strawberry Chocolate Smoothie
1 cup sliced strawberries, fresh or frozen
½ cup water
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup light chocolate soy milk (or light chocolate milk)
1 medium banana
1 teaspoon honey
Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix well. Frozen fruit will make the smoothie thicker and more like a milkshake, or additional water can be added for a lighter fruit drink. Other add ins could include: spinach, kale, mangoes, berries, vanilla or whey powder.
Yield: 3-4 cups
Jana Brown is a writer, wife and mother. She is an excellent cook and dedicated foodie. She blogs at cornabys.wordpress.com. Twitter: Cornabys