Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Strawberry Season

Since it is and has been for a couple of weeks now, Strawberry season, I will be taking the next couple of post to talk about these delicious berries.

The bright red heart shaped berry got its English name “strawberry” from the Anglo-Saxon “streoberie” which was not spelled in modern fashion until 1538. This delicious berry, which is part of the rose family, is the only fruit that has 200 seeds located on its outer surface. The flavor of each strawberry is influenced by weather, the variety and stage of ripeness when harvested. The American Indians were already eating strawberries when the Colonists arrived. The crushed berries were mixed with cornmeal and baked into strawberry bread. After trying this bread, Colonists developed their own version of the recipe and Strawberry Shortcake was created.

Local Strawberries usually begin to appear the last week of June the first weeks of July and will last until the end of October depending on what part of Atlantic Canada you live in. California produces 75% of the nations Strawberry crops with its one billion pounds of strawberries each year. California strawberries are available January through November, with peak quality and supply from March to May making strawberries available to us through out the year.

How to select and store:

Look for bright red berries with fresh green caps. When you remove the caps you tear cells in the berries, activating ascorbic acid oxidase, an enzyme that destroys Vitamin C.

Visually check each package, making sure there are no signs of mold growth. If one berry is molded, mold spores will have traveled throughout the entire package. Research has linked mold to some forms of cancer, always avoid moldy berries.

Use strawberries as soon after harvesting or purchasing as possible. Refrigerator storage does not improve the quality of fresh strawberries. Berries should not be left at room temperature for more than a few hours. Warm temperatures cause a browning effect in strawberries. The pigments that make strawberries red, anthocyanin, are heat sensitive. They break apart and turn brown when exposed to heat. Strawberries also lose heat-sensitive Vitamin C during browning, heating and cooking.

Store unwashed berries loosely covered with plastic wrap in the coldest part of your refrigerator for two to three days at most. Do not wash berries until ready to use.

To wash, place berries in a colander and rinse under cold running water. Do not allow berries to set in water as they will lose color and flavor.

After washing, remove the green cap with a plastic-tipped vegetable peeler or paring knife without removing any of the fruit.

Picking Tips

If you are picking your own strawberries from your garden or local u-pick here are a few tips to help you get the best berries.

1. Be careful that your feet and knees do not damage plants or fruit in or along the edge of the row.

2. Most growers furnish picking containers designed for strawberries. If you use your own container, remember that heaping strawberries more than 5 inches deep will bruise the lower berries.

3. Pick only the berries that are fully red. Part the leaves with your hands to look for hidden berries ready for harvest.

4. Grasp the stem just above the berry between the forefinger and the thumbnail and pull with a slight twisting motion.

5. With the stem broken about one-half inch from the berry, allow it to roll into the palm of your hand.

6. Repeat these operations using both hands until each holds 3 or 4 berries.

7. Carefully place - don't throw - the fruit into your containers. Repeat the picking process with both hands.

8. Don't overfill your containers or try to pack the berries down.

9. Pick the row clean. Remove from the plants berries showing rot, sunburn, insect injury or other defects and place them between the rows behind you.

10. Berries to be used immediately may be picked any time, but if you plan to hold the fruit for a few days, try to pick in the early morning or on cool, cloudy days. Berries picked during the heat of the day become soft, are easily bruised and will not keep well.

11. Avoid placing the picked berries in the sun any longer than necessary. It is better to put them in the shade of a tree or shed than in the car trunk or on the car seat. Cool them as soon as possible after picking. Strawberries may be kept fresh in the refrigerator for three or more days, depending upon the initial quality of the berry. After a few days in storage, however, the fruit loses its bright color and fresh flavor and tends to shrivel.

Fun Facts:
Madame Tallien, a prominent figure at the court of the Emperor Napoleon, was famous for bathing in the juice of fresh strawberries. She used 22 pounds per basin, needless to say, she did not bathe daily.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries (166 grams)

Calories 50
Protein 1 gram
Carbohydrates 11.65 grams
Dietary Fiber 3.81 grams
Calcium 23.24 mg
Iron 0.63 mg
Magnesium 16.60 mg
Phosphorus 31.54 mg
Potassium 44.82 mg
Selenium 1.16 mg
Vitamin C 94.12 mg
Folate 29.38 mcg
Vitamin A 44..82 IU

Nutrient sources:
Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more Vitamin C than citrus fruit. According to the American Cancer Society, foods rich in Vitamin C may lower the risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.
Eight strawberries will provide 140 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C for kids.

When Measuring Strawberries

1 1/2 pounds = 2 pints or 1 quart
1 small basket = 1 pint
1 pint = 3 1/4 cups whole berries
1 pint = 2 1/4 cups sliced berries
1 pint - 1 2/3 cup pureed berries
1 cup = about 4 ounces
Easy ways to eat:

Strawberries can be enjoyed many different ways. From sauces, to pies, shortcakes, scones, to toppings on your favorite dessert these berries are a great nutritious food. But the easiest way to eat strawberries is of course in its natural form on a warm summer day!



University of Illinois Extension Strawberries and More

The New Brunswick Department of Agriculture and Aquaculture

1 comment:

The Happy Housewife said...

Great tips! We love strawberries at our house!

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