Sensational Strawberries

 

Today we want to celebrate the strawberry. Did you know that the strawberry is the most popular berry in the United States? According to the California Strawberry Commission, California produces enough strawberries to go around the world side by side 15 times! Strawberries are the only fruit to have their seeds on the outside, which number about 200 per strawberry. Botanically speaking, the strawberry belongs to the genus Frageria, a member of the rose family. Frageris is derived from the Latin word, "fragrant."

Nutritional Benefits:

A 12-ounce container of strawberries contains just 97 calories and has no cholesterol, fat, or sodium. Eight strawberries provide 4 grams of fiber, 20% of the daily value for folate, and 140% of the vitamin C that our bodies need every day. That's more than what can be found in one orange. Strawberries are an important source of potassium, one of the minerals featured in the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which was developed to decrease blood pressure. Potassium is considered a nutrient of concern by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, because most people simply don't get enough potassium each day.

Strawberries also contain several classes of phytochemicals that may help prevent cancer. In a USDA study of seventeen different fruits and juices, strawberries were found to have the greatest total antioxidant capacity. Best of all, strawberries are so delicious that they help you get to 5 fruits and vegetables a day quickly - you can eat them at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. They make filling half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal (one of MyPlate's favorite reminders) a snap!

Buying Tips:

These luscious and sweet berries are available year round, but they are at their peak during spring and summer. The best tasting strawberries are usually the ones you pick yourself or buy from local strawberry fields. Once harvested, strawberries do not ripen further. When choosing strawberries to purchase, look for those that are bright red in color and have a natural sheen with fresh-looking green caps. The size of the strawberry is not important. All strawberries, large and small, are equally sweet and juicy.

Preparation and Storage Tips:

Strawberries should be stored at room temperature if you plan on using them quickly. If not, keep them uncovered or loosely covered in the refrigerator until you need them. They should be washed, with the caps attached, just before using. Strawberries have the best flavor when they are allowed to reach room temperature before serving. They deteriorate rapidly, so they are best eaten within a few days of purchase or picking. If you have an abundance of strawberries, consider freezing them for later use. The best way to freeze strawberries is to individually is to flash-freeze them on a baking pan, then pour the frozen strawberries into storage bags. Frozen or defrosted strawberries are perfect on top of cereal or yogurt. They also make delicious jam, purees, and smoothies.

Measuring Strawberries

  • 1 small basket = 1 pint
  • 1 pint = 3 1/4 cups whole berries
  • 1 pint = 2 1/4 cups sliced berries
  • 1 pint = 1 2/3 cups pureed berries

Preparation Ideas:

Berry Good Morning

Mix stemmed and halved strawberries with your choice of regular or reduced-fat granola and nonfat plain yogurt. Spoon into bowls and drizzle with honey for a bountiful breakfast or fast afternoon snack.

Berry-Licious Dessert

Mix halved strawberries and chunks of honeydew melon with fresh lime juice and finely chopped candied ginger. Sweeten with a little sugar or non-nutritive sweetener, if desired. Cover and refrigerate approximately one half hour to blend flavors. Serve for breakfast, brunch, or dessert.

Salsa Fresca

For a mild and flavorful salsa, chop 3 cups strawberries, a mango, an avocado and 1/4 cucumber into chunks and place in bowl. Add 1/2 cup chopped cilantro and a tablespoon of lemon juice; mix well. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. Serve with fish, shrimp, or baked tortilla chips.

By Beth Fontenot, MS, RD.

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