The ultimate guide to strawberries

Featured ingredient strawberries

 

Strawberries

Belong to the rose family. Plump, red and juicy, they have a sweet, slightly tart flavor and a soft crunch. They can be used in both sweet and savory applications and pair well with vanilla, almonds, rhubarb, cucumber, chocolate and black pepper.

Fresh strawberries are available year-round in many regions, with a peak season April to June. Strawberries have grown wild for centuries in the Americas and Europe. They were first cultivated in France in the 14th century.

Over 4.3 million tons of strawberries are produced each year. The U.S. is the biggest producer, representing 30 percent of the world’s crop, followed by Turkey, Spain, Egypt and Mexico. California and Florida are the top two strawberry producing states, with Florida growing most of the winter crop.

Strawberries may be small but they are packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, or plant-based nutrients, with antioxidant properties. They get their bright red color from anthocyanins, a type of phytonutrient, that helps improve memory and acts as an anti-inflammatory.

The amino acids in strawberries help protect the body against free radicals that cause aging, cancer and disease. Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C for a strong immune system and are high in manganese to help build resilient bones. They contain fiber to help control weight and folate to support cell and tissue growth.

 

Types and Varieties

Albion is a California variety with a long growing season. This extra-large, dark red fruit with a sweet flavor is a popular variety to use in desserts and cakes.

Chandler is a large, firm variety that has a flat, wedge shape. It is a good all-purpose strawberry, with a glossy color and excellent berry flavor.

Honeoye is a large, firm, bright orange-red to red variety that grows in early June. These strawberries obtain their best flavor when grown in raised beds or lighter soils.

Jewel strawberries are wide and large wedge-shaped berries with excellent flavor. They are known for their high quality and are a favorite for fresh markets.

Sweet Charlie plants are the most popular commercial variety in Florida. The strawberries are medium in size, firm and extremely sweet.

 

Selecting and Storing

• For best flavor, purchase locally-grown strawberries during peak season.
• Look for bright red strawberries with little white around the stem and red tips. Strawberries do not ripen further once picked.
• Avoid containers with damaged or moldy strawberries.
• Strawberries should not be washed until ready to use.
• Store in a moisture-proof container in the refrigerator for two to three days, preferably in a single layer on a paper towel.

 

Culinary Uses

• Gently rinse strawberries under cold, running water and pat them dry. Remove the stems and caps using a paring knife.
• Make a berry fruit salad of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries, tossed in a honey lemon dressing.
• For a refreshing summer salad, add strawberries and nuts to a green salad and serve it with a strawberry jam balsamic vinaigrette.
• If you have overripe strawberries, roast them in the oven with a touch of honey to create a syrupy topping for waffles, pancakes and ice cream.
• Pair strawberries and rhubarb and add to tartlets with a yogurt pastry cream.
• Mix up the classic strawberries and cream by adding basil leaves or black pepper to enhance the flavor of the strawberries.

 

Fun Facts

• Strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside.
• There are an average of 200 seeds on a strawberry.
• Strawberries are grown in every U.S. state.
• If all the strawberries produced in California in one year were laid berry to berry, they would go around the world 15 times.
• National Strawberry Day is celebrated every year on February 27.

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