{Foodie Friday: Strawberries}

7 May

Mmmm.  Last night I made the most delicious strawberry cake.  Actually, I made a very, very delicious dinner overall, but that’s another story.  I was moseying around the grocery, when a strawberry display caught my attention.  I heard on the radio a few weeks back, that there was going to be a strawberry shortage this year due to the frosts in the South, and also that prices were going to be through the roof.  Nope.  These were $1.88.  Not too shabby. And they were very, very good.  Not too ripe, not overripe.  Not too sweet, not too tart.  Really, just perfect. 

First, I washed them.  I use a fruit wash—grapefruit and lemon extracts.  Then I topped and sliced about half of them, and put them in a shallow bowl.  Using a fork (no major tools required here), I pressed and stirred and prodded until they had pureed.  I did this while watching the opening of The Vampire Diaries…it really is that quick and simple.

Then I topped and cut the other half of the strawberries in quarters.

I arranged the sliced Angel foodcake on a plate. Yes, I walked around the store 3 times to choose the best pre-packaged cake that was low in sugar and calories.  NOTE: Those little packaged round cakes that they always meticulously display with strawberries are evil, evil things.  They are like Twinkies.  Had I not planned this at the last minute, I would have baked my own, which I highly recommend.  Otherwise, look for Angel foodcake, and READ THE LABELS.

I drizzled the pureed strawberries over the cake, topped it with a few more spoonfuls of quartered strawberries, and topped it with a quick squirt of “whipped cream.”  NOTE: I use almond whipped topping, or soy whipped topping, both of which can be found at Whole Foods.  I try to limit dairy, and these are both excellent options.  I love the taste, which is about the same as traditional Ready-Whip, but it doesn’t leave a super-sweet aftertaste.  I stuck one of the tops in the side of the whipped cream, and I must admit, it looked pretty professional. Even the hubby made a comment about how “cute” it was.  Yep, he called my cooking cute.

So, can something be so “cute”, tasty, and healthy? Yep!

Etymology:

Hmmm…no one seems to know.  It is claimed that the name came from having to put straw over the plant for it to survive, but that is not true.  Some believe it has to do with the yellow seeds sprouting out the sides, or because the plant’s tendrils can shoot out like straws. . .

Random Facts:

There are more than 600 varieties of strawberries that differ in flavor, size and texture.

Strawberries have been around since the dawn of time (not that anyone would REALLY know that…), but didn’t really gain favor until the Roman era. Yet, after the fall of Rome, they seemed to have lost their favor until they reemerged in Europe in the Middle Ages. During this time, they began to be prized again, more so for their medicinal qualities than for their culinary value.

If you really have an intent interest in strawberries, check out this blog that I stumbled upon.  Everything Strawberries, indeed.

Where is it Grown?

Currently, the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Australia and New Zealand are among the largest commercial producers of strawberries.

In the U.S., strawberries are grown year-round in California and other temperate climates.

Can I Grow Them at Home?

Yep.  Although, I haven’t.  I’m thinking I’ll try it out this year.  There are three different types of plants-June, ever-bearing, and day-neutral.  June grows, well, only in June.  Ever-bearing grows throughout the Summer and early Autumn, and day-neutral grows as long as the temperature is around 75 degrees.  Obviously, June is easier to grow at home, or for beginners, like yours truly.

Strawberries Hanging Over the Sides by Strata Chalup.

Plants can be potted in containers, or in ground soil.  However, they need excellent drainage as they are prone to rot. They should have full sun, with a slightly acidic soil.  Space plants about 12-24” apart.

Each plant requires about 1-1 ½” of water/week.  I’m not sure what this means, but other recommendations are to water lightly each day.  Water early in the day, so that the plant has time to dry out in the heat of the day.

Each plant will produce about a pint of strawberries, so a few plants may be necessary to have strawberries all summer.

Plants should be planted in early Spring for June berries.  I’m thinking now shouldn’t be a problem, right?  Nope, I googled it.  April 15-May 15 for Ohioans looking to plant.

When is it in Season?

While available year-round thanks to imports, peak season for home-grown goodies is April-July.

Storage and Shelf-Life

When purchasing strawberries:

Only buy them 1-2 days before you are planning on using them

Choose berries that are firm, plump, and have a shiny, deep red color. Avoid the dull in color ones or ones that have green or yellow patches since they are likely to be sour. They don’t ripen after being picked, so once green and sour, always green and sour.

The ones above are probably a bit tart…

Look for medium-sized strawberries, which usually more flavorful than the big ole’ ones—even though it is so tempting, I know.

 If you’re buying strawberries prepackaged, make sure that they are not packed too tightly and that the container has no stains or moisture, which is indication of possible spoilage.

Once home, immediately wash them, so that you can remove any less-than-fresh ones, and so that they don’t contaminate the other ones.  Pat them dry and put them back in the original container, or lay them on a plate with paper towels and cover with plastic wrap.  The latter helps with bruising.  NOTE: Definitely wash them well.  Strawberries are listed as one of the top 12 foods with pesticide residue.

Strawberries can be frozen for up to 1 year.  Wash and pat them completely dry, and place them on a flat cookie sheet in the freezer until just frozen.  Remove them, and place them in a tightly sealed plastic bag with a few squirts of lemon juice.  They can be frozen whole, topped, crushed, or sliced, but whole strawberries will retain more health benefits.

Umm…Why Should I Care?

Strawberries are a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit, and an anti-inflammatory fruit, all rolled into one.

They have antioxidants that help protect cell structures in the body and to prevent oxygen damage in all of the body’s organ systems.

The anti-inflammatory properties of strawberry include the ability to lessen activity of the enzyme cyclo-oxygenase, or COX. Anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin or ibuprofen block pain by blocking this enzyme, whose overactivity has been shown to contribute to unwanted inflammation, such as that which is involved in rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, and cancer. Unlike drugs that are COX-inhibitors, however, strawberries do not cause intestinal bleeding.  So…next time you feel the need to reach for an aspirin…reach for strawberries instead!

Of course, they are very high in Vitamin C, plus a good source of dietary fiber, B vitamins, and omega 3 fatty acids.

Also, eating three servings of fruit/day (at least), has shown to lower the risk of macular degeneration.

Recipes:

Of course, eating them whole and raw is the best choice, and quite a tasty choice at that!  For a bit more variety, cut, mash, or puree them to pour on top of other desserts, oatmeals, pancakes, or waffles.  I’m not usually one for mixing fruits and veggies together, but I do like strawberry slices with spinach salad.  Both flavors are understated enough that together, they taste divine.  The possibilities really are endless.  For even more inspiration, check out these recipes:

Strawberry Cake, fo real, yo.

And, in honor of Summer…a nice strawberry margarita. For all you alcoholics out there…

There’s always the crowd-pleasing Chocolate Covered Strawberries.  Not only are they easy, but they make wonderful gifts as well.  I was really inspired by these pics–proof that anything can be adapted for a theme or occassion!

I'd love to hear what you think! Leave a comment below.

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