Sweet, plump and succulent strawberries widely available nowadays were first thought to have been cultivated in ancient Rome and Northern Europe.
As the berries seemed to be strewn among the leaves of the plant, these little heart-shaped fruits were first named strewberry. These strewberries were picked and brought to market on beds of straw. So later the name was changed to strawberry. (Really.)
Historically, strawberries were used as a medicinal plant. Inside the body, the berry was used to remedy digestive upsets, while the leaves and roots were used for gout. Externally, the berry was used as a treatment for sunburn and blemishes and the juice was even used for discolored teeth.
Fragrant members of the rose family, strawberries are best enjoyed from May through June, their peak season.
Strawberries are not berries. Botanists classify the strawberry as an "aggregate fruit". This is a fleshy fruit receptacle covered with dry, single seeded fruits on its surface. True berries are pulpy, pitted fruits with a fleshy, soft ovary wall - like blueberries, grapes and cranberries. The strawberry was originally called "strewberry" because the fruit appears strewn among the plant's leaves. Mispronunciation changed the name to strawberry.
Look for plump, brightly colored berries that give off a pungent fragrance.
Be sure to check the underside of plastic containers for any unripe, bruised, or moldy berries; look for stains on cardboard pints, which could indicate some berries have been crushed.
Strawberries: The Perfect Treat
Today, strawberries are considered one of the most important small fruits grown in the Western Hemisphere. Every province in Canada grows the plant. Although fresh, plain strawberries make a perfect treat, they are incredibly versatile being used in everything from rich pies, to fancy cocktails, trendy salads and healthy smoothies.
High in vitamin C and other cancer-fighting antioxidants, strawberries also boast a lot of fiber, plus some iron and potassium. One cup of sliced strawberries is a mere 50 calories, making them a fresh choice for snacking.
Just 1-cup of strawberries provide 85 mg of vitamin C and bioflavonoids (which may have anti-cancer properties.)
Strawberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. For best results, place them in a single layer on a paper towel inside a moisture-proof container. Leave the caps on until you are ready to use the berries (to prevent the fruit from absorbing excess water) and do not wash them until just before eating.
One pint will yield about 2-cups of sliced berries.
- To keep strawberries from absorbing large quantities of water, hull after washing. A salad spinner works well for removing excess water from berries.
- For long term storage of individual berries individual quick freezing is recommended. This will minimize the "mushiness" associated with freezing the berries.
- Strawberries can be frozen and safely kept for up to 1 year. Place the berries on flat trays in a single layer, well spaced out, and put into the coldest part of the freezer (the colder the better). Choose firm, ripe berries; wash in ice water before hulling. Carefully drain well on several layers of paper towels first.
- Sort and remove any bruised or damaged berries as soon as possible and use in sauces, purees or jams.
- Choose locally grown strawberries during the harvesting session, they will be the freshest and the most flavourful.
- The best strawberries are the ones you pick yourself or buy from your local strawberry fields. Farm fresh strawberries are hours old with little or no handling and no traveling. When picking strawberries, try to pick early in the morning or later in the day when the fruit is cool. Look for plump, bright red and fully ripe berries. Caps should be attached green and fresh looking. The size of the strawberry is not important. All strawberries, large and small, are equally sweet and juicy.
- Strawberries are best used within 2 to 3 days of picking. Cover and store them unwashed in the refrigerator. Do not crowd or press.
Keep Your Berries Fresh
Strawberries seem to spoil very quickly. Here is an old tip to make them last a bit longer. Remove the leaves and stem of the berries. Wash and place them in a colander. Pour BOILING water over the strawberries. This will kill the bacteria that molds the berries. Place the strawberries in a plastic container in the refrigerator. They will last twice as long.
To remove stems from strawberries without cutting off the entire top, simply push the straight end of a flexible straw into the bottom of the strawberry. The entire stem should poke through the top in one piece.
Strawberries for Your Heart
Harvard researchers found that two or more servings per week may help reduce inflammation linked to clogging and hardening of the arteries. Both increase with age -- and boost your risk of heart attack.
Shakespeare and Strawberries
Shakespeare in his plays speaks of apricots, mulberries, pomegranates, quinces, figs, gooseberries, and seems to have had a particular interest in strawberries, then considered by many to possess some special health giving qualities.
In Henry V a courtier likens the emergence of the young king's virtues after a misspent youth to the virtue of the strawberry thriving under the nettle. Indeed, the fascination with medicinal plants and herbs long survived.
Skin Care: Strawberry Skin Moisturizer
1 tablespoon each: Olive, coconut and vegetable oils
2 tablespoons mashed strawberries
(Optional) 1 or 2 drops vitamin E oil
Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Store in the refrigerator in a covered jar between uses.
To keep rabbits away from strawberry plants, sprinkle black pepper around and over your strawberry patch. Rabbits have a keen sense of smell and are repelled by the scent of black pepper. When it rains, be sure to re-pepper the garden.
Slice strawberries to top shortbread or ice cream, or simply serve them whole. For an easy dessert full of vitamin C, drizzle sliced berries with balsamic vinegar or a splash of Champagne.
So pretty and so simple!
2/3 cup sugar-free strawberry jam
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Whites of 2 eggs
1/2 cup whipping cream
Beat the cream of tartar and egg whites together in a small bowl until the eggs make peaks. Gently fold in the strawberry jam and whipped cream. Cover and put in the fridge for an hour. Top with strawberry slices, berries, or clementine segments.
Refreshing Strawberry Slurp Recipe
1 10-oz. package frozen strawberries, thawed
1 cup milk
2 cups strawberry frozen yogurt
Combine ingredients in blender and whir until smooth. Makes 8 servings. Per serving: 3g protein, 1g fat, 120mg calcium, 14g carbohydrates, 76 calories
Light Strawberry Milkshake
1/2 cup frozen vanilla yogurt or lite vanilla ice cream
1 cup strawberries
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup nonfat milk
Blend all ingredients in blender and pour into tall, chilled glasses. Garnish with fat-free whipped cream, fresh strawberries and a straw. Makes 1 serving with 185 calories. Calorie equivalent: 1 carbohydrate, 1 fruit
1/2 slice 3 grain bread
2 teaspoons farmer cheese
3 strawberries, sliced
1/2 teaspoon honey
Coarsely ground black pepper (optional)
Place the bread on a plate and spread with the farmer cheese. Top evenly with the strawberries and drizzle with the honey. Add black pepper, if desired. Cut in half and eat.
Strawberries With Sweet Cream & Chocolate
In small bowl, combine 1 cup 2 percent plain Greek yogurt, 4 teaspoons maple syrup and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. In small dish, grate 1 ounce dark chocolate. To serve, dip 1-1/2 cups strawberries in yogurt mixture and then in chocolate sprinkles.
Teetotaler Strawberry Daquiri
1 orange, juiced
1 cup frozen strawberries
1/2 lime, juiced
Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Drink immediately. Alternatively, peel one orange and half a lime and blend in a blender with frozen strawberries.
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