In Season: Strawberries
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.
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.
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.
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.
Recipes to try: