Tiny, red, heart-shaped, sweet juicy snacks right off of a plant. What could be better?
Strawberries are considered the most popular berry fruit in the world.
The tiny fruit is packed with vitamin C, fiber, phytonutrients, and antioxidants. Just one serving – only about eight strawberries – packs more vitamin C than an orange according to Dr. Pam Duitsman, nutrition specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
“Strawberries are the first berries on the market in the summer,” Duitsman said. “Since their growing season is very brief, it is important to be ready. Plan to gather enough for your freezer while strawberries are in season.”
For those who have not yet planted their own strawberry plants, be assured that there are many U-Pick strawberry farms in Missouri.
When picking, select firm, fully red berries. According to Duitsman, strawberries will continue to turn red after they are picked, but they will not ripen further or turn sweeter.
“Flavor is influenced by the stage of ripeness, time of harvest, and a variety of the fruit,” she said. “The size of the berry does not determine the flavor.”
When selecting strawberries in the store or at the farmer’s market, Duitsman recommends choosing berries that are firm, dry, and uniform in color. They should be plump, shiny, with a deep red color that is unblemished and free of mold. Avoid berries that are dull, or have green or yellow patches. If they have their caps attached, they should look green and fresh.
“Check the berries on the bottom to make sure they are also of good quality,” Duitsman said. “As soon as you get the strawberries home, check closely for decay, mold, or other signs of spoilage, and discard any spoiled berries.”
Strawberries can be washed, drained, covered, and stored in the refrigerator for later use. Leave the green caps and crowns on the berries until after they are washed to prevent water from soaking into the berry.
Let the berries sand and soil sink to the bottom, and lift the strawberries out of the water with your fingers. Several washes in clean water may be necessary. Let the berries dry completely on paper towels. Consume them within a couple of days for best quality. When ready to eat, remove caps by giving them a gentle twist, or use the point of a sharp paring knife.
Freezing is the best method of preserving strawberries for meals throughout the year.
Strawberries can be frozen whole, sliced, or crushed, and stored in the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 12 months. Frozen strawberries can be substituted for fresh berries in recipes; however, the freezing process will make the texture much softer.
“Strawberries that have been frozen are best served with a few ice crystals remaining. If thawed completely they will become mushy,” Duitsman said.
Strawberries are low-calorie fruits. One cup of fresh berries has 45 calories. One serving of cooked, canned, or frozen berries are equal to about a half cup. For fresh berries, use one cup as a serving size.
For more information, call the MU Extension office in Houston at 417-967-4545.
This spring salad is teaming with Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. The bright green of the spinach and contrasting red of the strawberries is beautiful, and the flavors are excellent together.
•One pint fresh strawberries
•Two bunches fresh spinach
•One-half cup sugar
•One and a half tablespoons minced green onion
•One-half teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
•One-half teaspoon paprika
•One-half cup olive oil
•One-half cup balsamic or cider vinegar
•Two tablespoons sesame seeds
Wash strawberries under cool running water. Remove caps and set aside to drain.
Wash spinach & remove large, tough stems. Tear large leaves into small pieces. Drain.
In a medium bowl combine remaining ingredients and whisk together.
Slice strawberries into halves or quarters and place in a large bowl. Add dry spinach.
Pour dressing over all and toss.
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