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By The Paula Deen Test Kitchen

One must ask children and birds how cherries and strawberries taste. Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Nothing says spring like a big bowl of sweet, fragrant strawberries. These heart-shaped ruby red jewels are the first fruit to ripen in spring. Strawberries are high in nutrients, low in sugar
(only 8 grams), and high in antioxidants. Eight medium-size strawberries contain only 50 calories and have more vitamin C than an orange.

A member of the rose family, no one is quite sure how strawberries got their name. One myth, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, is that nineteenth century English children would pick the berries and string them on pieces of straw to carry them to market. Another is from the practice of placing straw around the berry plants to protect the berries as they ripen. 

About 80 percent of American strawberries are grown in California, making them available year-round. However, late spring and early summer is when an abundance of luscious, locally grown berries becomes available. Take advantage of the vanishingly quick season and head out to the farmer’s market – or bring a basket to a pick-your-own fruit farm. If you’ve never indulged before, the taste of a juicy, ripe, fresh picked strawberry will absolutely stop you in your tracks – a little taste of heaven indeed.

Unlike peaches and bananas, which continue to ripen after picking, strawberries do not. Even though strawberries continue to develop a deep red pigment, larger berries aren’t necessarily sweeter. The best way to tell if the berry is ripe for the picking is to take a whiff. A sweet, fruity aroma is a good indication there’s something sweet inside. Choose medium strawberries that are plump and unblemished and avoid berries with white or green patches. Don’t forget to check the bottom of the basket to make sure the berries aren’t bruised or starting to leak.

To store berries, don’t wash them and don’t remove their green caps. Instead, place them in a small colander and refrigerate, uncovered for up to three days. The colander allows air to circulate around the berries making them last longer. Right before using, gently spray them with cool running water and blot dry with paper towels. Don’t remove the green caps until after washing as the caps prevent the berry from getting water-logged.

Strawberries freeze well, and it’s a great way to stock up on the delicious local berries that are available now. Spread them in one layer on a cookie sheet and freeze until frozen. Transfer the frozen berries to zip-close freezer bag and freeze up to 3 months.

Frozen berries do not need to be thawed before using in a recipe. Frozen or partially thawed berries work best in smoothies, muffins, quick breads, and cakes. Paula’s Simply Delicious Strawberry Cake, or Strawberry Pretzel Salad are perfect examples. For uncooked berry toppings like Paula’s Fresh Fruit Tart or Strawberry Shortcake, use only fresh and never frozen berries. Strawberries are not only for dessert, but are berry delicious in salads too! Paula’s Spinach Strawberry and Hearts of Palm Salad and Spinach and Strawberry Salad are perfect for a light lunch. Top them with grilled shrimp or chicken and you have a cool spring dinner.

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Leave a Comment

Reader Comments:

We have the best strawberries here that I have ever seen…....and who couldn’t just eat and eat them. So glad to know about the colander.Also the freezing of them as I will get some more and do this.Thanks

By Barbara Silva on May 19, 2010

Thanks, Paula!

By Jean Mundy on May 14, 2010

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