In Season: Strawberries

by in In Season, June 16, 2009

When I was a girl, my dad grew strawberries in our backyard, and although the berries weren’t huge, he was so proud of each one I picked. I loved chowing down on them. To this day, I still adore these luscious red berries for more than just their sweet flavor. Here’s why.

When, Where & What
Part of the rose family, strawberries are the most widely grown fruit in the world. Unlike most fruits or veggies, they’re unique because they sport their seeds on the outside (about 200 on each berry). Strawberries vary in size, color, shape, and flavor, and two general classes are “ever-bearing,” which grow from early summer to early fall, and “June-bearing,” which only produce fruit for a few weeks in late spring. During off-peak season, most strawberries in your supermarket come from warmer areas like California — if you’re in a colder state, they likely cost a bit more and might not taste as juicy and fresh. That’s all the more reason to love them now.

When prepping this piece, I was browsing the California Strawberry Commission website. Their kids’ section — “Strawberryville” — has lots of interesting factoids. Like, did you know if you lined up all the strawberries grown in California in a straight line it would wrap around the earth 15 times?

Nutrition Facts
One cup, which is about 8 strawberries, contain 50 calories. When eaten fresh and whole, they’re fat-, sodium- and cholesterol free, but jam-packed with antioxidants — especially vitamin C. A serving has more than a medium orange even! A cup of berries also contains 3 grams of soluble fiber.

When I asked fellow dietitian David Grotto, RD LDN (also the author of 101 Foods that Could Save Your Life), why strawberries were on his list, he told me the combo of low calories and high vitamin C count is optimal. He added: “Recent research has shown that adding in strawberries to the diet helps lower LDL cholesterol while also making low cholesterol diets more palatable. Taste is the secret to my patients sustaining their efforts.” In addition to heart-health benefits, the vitamin C found in strawberries may help fight cancer. What more can you ask of a fruit?

What To Do With Strawberries
I adore the sweetness and juiciness of fresh strawberries. As a child, I’d eat strawberries as a snack with a tablespoon of sugar on the side (yum!). These days, I frequently toss strawberries into my kid’s oatmeal, my morning cereal, on top of non-fat Greek yogurt or as a topping for pancakes (so many possibilities!). This past weekend, I found fresh strawberry jam at the farmers’ market; it was made without added sugar but still gave a sweet deliciousness to my PB&J sandwich.

Strawberries work well in a variety of recipes, too. They play well with cheese or greens, so consider dropping them in a salad. Of course, strawberry tarts and shortcakes are classic preparations. And let’s not forget simple, dark chocolate-dipped strawberries. You can also make a quick and healthy dessert by adding a bit of balsamic vinegar and sugar to some cut-up pieces.

If you buy too many strawberries, freeze them plain or with a touch of sugar; you can keep them for up to a year in the freezer. I keep frozen berries on hand to toss into a fresh fruit smoothie.

Shopping Tip: Choose berries with a bright red color. Always check the bottom of the container for moldy, soft or bruised berries. Rinse right before you use them; pre-washing causes them to mold quickly. Store at room temperature or in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

TELL US: What’s your favorite way to enjoy strawberries?

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