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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Strawberries Revisited

Strawberries Revisited:


The strawberry is a widely grown hybird of the genus "Fragaria".  It is a member of the rose family.  It is cultivated worldwide.  Actually, the strawberry is not botanically a "berry" , but an aggregate accessory fruit. That means that fleshy part is not from the plant's ovaries but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries.  Each "seed" on the outside is actually one of the ovaries of the flower with a seed inside. Even so, strawberries are the most popular berry fruit in the world.


The strawberry is prized for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture, and sweetness.  There are over 600 varieties of strawberries each differing in flavor, size, and texture.   Strawberries are consumed in large quantities either fresh or in prepared foods such as preserves, fruit juice, pies, ice creams, milkshakes, and chocolate.  Artificial strawberry flavorings and aromas are widely used in products like lip gloss, candy, hand sanitizer, perfume, and many other things.   Strawberries retain their maximum amount of nutrients and maximum flavor when eaten fresh rather than in a cooked recipe.


The strawberry was first mentioned in Roman literature in reference to its medicinal use.  The strawberry is known to be around for 2000 years. The Strawberry is found in European Art and Literature symbolizing perfect righteousness.  The entire strawberry plant was used to treat depressive illnesses.
 The garden strawberry was first bred in Brittany, France via a cross of berries from eastern North America and Chile.  Prior to that wild strawberries and cultivated selections of wild strawberries were the common sources of the fruit.  The U. S. produces the largest yearly tonnage of strawberries  at over 1.3 million tons followed by Turkey, Spain, and Egypt. 

My Story:

I remember seeing my uncle in the family store culling through pints of strawberries picking out the very best for a customer.  Strawberries are very perishable and no respectable produce man will trash a whole pint just for the sake of one or two bad berries. I culled many pints during my career.  The first time I went to a "You pick-um" place,  it was on Long Island to pick some strawberries.    More recently I remember when "Strawberry Shortcake" dolls and accessories  were the rage.    My wife and I decorated our daughter's room in "Strawberry Shortcake".  It was complete with "Strawberry Shortcake" wallpaper and a window seat.


The strawberry is an excellent source of vitamin C, and a good source of manganese. It provides several other vitamins and minerals in lesser amounts.  

Health Benefits:

 Strawberries are ranked among the 50 best antioxidant sources among commonly eaten foods.  It is fourth among all fruits (behind  blackberries, cranberries, and raspberries).  Strawberries have a unique combination of  antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrients.  Research shows health benefits in cardiovascular support and prevention of cardiovascular disease, improved regulation of blood sugar with decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, and prevention of certain cancer types including breast, cervical, colon, and esophageal cancer. 


Commercially grown strawberries are available almost year round.  Peak season is April through July.  Strawberries can be grown almost anywhere in the world.  If you'd like to try your had at growing your own, the best time to plant is in the late summer or spring.  Plant in full sun with somewhat sandy soil.  The addition of manure and balanced fertilizer aids strong growth.  They can be planted in pots or special planters using compost.  Moisture is essential during fruit formation.  The fruit matures in midsummer.  Pick when it is a uniform bright red color.  Strawberries do not ripen after they have been harvested.

Selecting and Storing:

Strawberries should be purchased just a few days prior to use.  Choose berries that are firm, plump, free of mold with shiny deep red color and attached green caps.  Do not wash berries until just before use.  Remember, they do not ripen after they have been picked.  Keep under refrigeration.  Strawberries are very perishable. 

So..... Eat up!  Enjoy!  I'll show you how.

Simple but Good:

Strawberry Smoothie

4 large strawberries
1/4 cup low fat yogurt
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 TBS tahini
1 medium size banana
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 TBS honey

Remove stems from strawberries and wash.  Blend all ingredients until smooth

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