Summer Strawberries

IMG_0278IMG_0261

Even though our farm share is not in full swing until later on next week they have opened up their fields to member for strawberry picking.  These strawberries are unlike any strawberries you will find in a grocery store they are small, flavorful and very sweet. Since we are only allowed a limited amount we usually just eat them on their own.  I save my strawberry recipes for when the summer strawberries in the store go on sale.  This sweet variety does not need chocolate, cream or sugar in my opinion. I enjoy these strawberries best all on their own without any further garnish.

There is some controversy over where the name for strawberries first derived.  Some believe that they are named strawberries because farmers once protected their crops with straw.  Others believe that they are named strawberries because of the straw-like runners that spew from the bottom of the plants.  We do know, however, that strawberries were first cultivated in the thirteenth century.IMG_0258IMG_0264

Strawberries are a member of the rose family and are a native plant to both Americas and Europe.  The earliest traces of the plant were in Italy. Strawberries then spread to other regions of Europe and America. When they were first introduced to America they remained primarily in Massachusetts. Today, however, California is the leading producer of strawberries harvesting roughly one billion pounds of them every year.  This is about eighty percent of all the strawberries in the United States. The average person consumes about five pounds worth of strawberries a year, making them America’s second favorite fruit behind apples.

The variety of strawberries most commonly found in the grocery store is a hybrid breed combining Virginia strawberries and Chilean strawberries.  The hybrid variety creates a large, hearty berry that is easy to package and ship across the country. Although they are not as flavorful and sweet as the wild varieties, they are less perishable.IMG_0281IMG_0259

Even though you can find strawberries available year round in most grocery stores, you might notice that they are less expensive and that they taste much better during the summer months.  Strawberries peak season is April through September.  You should store your strawberries in the refrigerator and wash them only before eating.  Strawberries are best consumed within two to three days of purchasing them.

Since strawberries are the most popular variety of berry, most people do not need any further convincing or bribing to eat them.  However, strawberries boast a significant list of health benefits.  Studies have proven strawberries to promote healthy skin and fight against memory loss and various cancers.  They are a rich source of vitamins B and C, iron and potassium.  They are also a good source of fiber. Strawberries are one of the best fruits for antioxidants, ranking number four among other berries. IMG_0280IMG_0282

If you are looking to consume the optimum amount of antioxidants from strawberries it is best to consume the wild varieties.  Small berries pack a larger load of antioxidants per serving. If you can’t find wild strawberries look to your freezer aisle.  Frozen fruit is a great alternative for buying fruit because it is often less expensive than fresh fruit. Just make sure that there are no additional additives or sugars.  My favorite ways to use frozen fruit is in a smoothie or cooked inside of my oatmeal. You can also boil it down on the stove and pour it over a number of dishes like waffles or ice cream.

IMG_0272

Even though you can find some of the best selections of strawberries right now in the grocery store, enjoy the best of what the season has to offer by finding a farm near you that offers strawberry picking.  Farm fresh berries do not compare to their conventional cousin.  We are still savoring what is left of the strawberries from our farm share, however, we often go again later in the summer to pick a bulk supply of them for baking and freezing. IMG_0268IMG_0263IMG_0274

Sources: 
“Vegetarian [Paperback].” Vegetarian: Nicola Graimes: 9780760749531: Amazon.com: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012. (24) 
“The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion (Deluxe Edition) [Hardcover].” The Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion (Deluxe Edition): Sharon Tyler Herbst, Ron Herbst: 9780764162411: Amazon.com: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2012. (50)
"MNN - Mother Nature Network." MNN - Mother Nature Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 June 2013.
"Strawberry History from BerryFarmer.com." Strawberry History from BerryFarmer.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 June 2013.