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Strawberries

Why Eat It
Varieties
Availability
Shopping
Storage
Preparation
Nutrition Chart


Why Eat It

These plump, sweet, rubylike berries are nutritional jewels.  They are rich in dietary fiber and offering good amounts of vitamin C (more than any other berry) and manganese, strawberries are also an excellent source of ellagic acid, a phytochemical that helps combat carcinogens. They are also a good source of antioxidant flavonoids, such as anthocynanins. When the USDA analyzed a variety of fruits to rate their antioxidant power, strawberries came in second (blueberries were first).

The strawberry is technically a "false" fruit because it grows from the base rather than from the ovary of a flower, and so is not a true berry.

Varieties

Some 70 varieties are produced commercially, mostly in California and Florida (though strawberries are grown in all 50 states). Some of the dominant California varieties are the Pajaro and the Chandler.

Day neutrals: The recently introduced "day neutral" varieties, such as Tristar, which are usually grown on a smaller scale because of their labor-intensive cultivation, means a more constant supply of well-flavored berries throughout the season: These varieties bloom all summer, so that Eastern growers can extend their harvest period to nearly the length of the California season. The fruits are smaller than California berries, but good and sweet.

Wild strawberries: Wild strawberries, or fraises des bois, are now cultivated to a small extent in California. These thumbnail-size berries are prized for their very intense flavor. If you're a good forager, you may find an overlooked patch of these tiny strawberries growing in a pasture or meadow in midsummer.

Availability

Strawberries are the most popular as well as the most plentiful berry: They are available year-round, with greatest abundance from April through July, when the California crops are at their peak. Availability diminishes significantly from October through January, although imported berries, from Mexico and New Zealand, augment the supply. Local strawberries are available at farms, farmers' markets, and often at supermarkets when they are in season.

Shopping

For best flavor, buy strawberries when they're in season where you live; they'll undoubtedly be riper and tastier than berries that have been transported in from distant regions. Also, the closer the berries are to the market, the less damage they're likely to suffer in transit.

Choose strawberries very carefully; they are often packed in opaque boxes that may conceal inferior fruit beneath a display of perfect specimens on top. If the box is cellophane wrapped, your best bet is to examine the berries you can see, and check the box for dampness or stains, which indicate that the fruit below may be decaying. If the box is not wrapped, you can remove a few of the top berries and peek beneath. Check, too, for twigs or other debris (there shouldn't be any).

Strawberries should be plump, dry, firm, well shaped and uniformly colored. Don't purchase berries that are withered or crushed. The berries themselves should be a true, rich red (although the shade of red differs among varieties). Pale, greenish, or yellowish fruit is unripe and will be hard and sour. The leafy caps should look fresh and green.

Storage

Strawberries are highly perishable; they can turn soft, mushy, and moldy within 24 hours. When you bring home a box of berries, turn it out and check the fruit. Remove any soft, overripe strawberries for immediate consumption; discard any smashed or moldy berries and gently blot the remainder dry with a paper towel. Return the berries to the box, or, better yet, spread them on a shallow plate or pan and cover with paper towels, then with plastic wrap.

Freezing: Strawberries freeze well, allowing you to enjoy them practically year round. You can buy prepackaged frozen berries, but these may have had sweetener added, which can double their calorie content. Freezing strawberries yourself is simple. Pick over the berries, then spread them out in a single layer in a jelly-roll pan. Place the unwashed berries in the freezer until they are solidly frozen, and then transfer them to a heavy plastic bag. They'll keep for 10 months to a year.

Preparation

Pick over strawberries, discarding any bad ones. Keep the caps of strawberries intact until after they're rinsed and drained, as the opening left by the removal of the cap will allow the berries to absorb water. Rinse the fruit, drain, and gently pat dry. Use your fingers, a paring knife, or a pincerlike strawberry huller to take off the caps and the white "hull," which is sort of like the strawberry's core.

Frozen berries need not be thawed before using them in recipes, but extra cooking time may be necessary. Commercially frozen berries do not require washing, but home-frozen berries--which should not have been washed previously--should be quickly rinsed under cold water.

Nutrition Chart

Strawberries/1 cup whole

43
Total fat (g)
0.5
Saturated fat (g)
0
Monounsaturated fat (g)
0.1
Polyunsaturated fat (g)
0.3
Dietary fiber (g)
3.3
1
Carbohydrate (g)
10
Cholesterol (mg)
0
Sodium (mg)
1
Vitamin C (mg)
82
Manganese (mg)
0.4


Date Published: 04/21/2005
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