Do you remember when fresh fruit was seasonal? Apples in fall; peaches, melons and plums in late summer; oranges and grapefruit in winter; strawberries in late spring/early summer. Now the average grocery store sells all fresh fruit all year long.
When I was a kid, strawberries were only available once a year, in June, for 2-3 weeks. Fresh strawberries are fragile, and they were grown and sold locally. I remember a farm stand with berries in little baskets. We ate them within a day, to enjoy to peak flavor. The ripe berries were so fresh they practically melted in your mouth.
I bought grocery store strawberries a couple of weeks ago. They were large and red and seemed to last for days. The flavor was so-so, the texture was more fibrous than juicy. Meh. I was looking forward to my home-grown strawberries. Finally this week, I started picking gorgeous red melt-in-your-mouth-ripe strawberries every morning.
Strawberries in the garden
If you’d like to grow your own, first find a sunny spot in your garden that you can dedicate to strawberries for a few years, because strawberry plants produce for several seasons. In addition to garden space, strawberries take planning and effort: buy the plants, prepare the garden bed, enrich the soil, weed, protect them from marauding squirrels and birds, then pick the strawberries. If growing your own is not feasible, find fresh local strawberries at farmers’ markets in late spring or early summer. Keep in mind, fresh strawberries don’t last as long as those grocery store varieties, so use them in a timely fashion.
Aside from wonderful flavor, strawberries are known for vitamin C content. A cup (or about 6 oz) has 88 mg vitamin C. Other nutrients in significant amounts: potassium, fiber, folate and vitamin K.
Really fresh ripe strawberries should not need any added sweeteners. Sweeteners detract from the lovely strawberry flavor, while adding empty calories.
Cooking with Strawberries
I prefer ripe berries, eaten raw. Simple. But sometimes you want to do something different. The internet is full of dessert-type strawberry recipes, if you need ideas. I’m more in favor of easy, non-sugary uses, including:
- Add to leafy green salads (particularly good with spinach or arugula)
- Use in smoothies (with yogurt, kefir, milk, other fresh fruit)
- Add sliced strawberries to water to flavor it. Nicely combines with cucumbers, fresh mint or basil
- Top your hot or cold cereal with sliced strawberries
- Add to a fruit salad
- Top toast or bruschetta with a soft cheese (fresh mozzarella, feta, cream cheese, ricotta, brie..) and sliced strawberries
- Some people swear by fresh strawberries seasoned with a bit of balsamic vinegar, which can be in a tossed salad or on your cheesy toast
- Use as a topping for pancakes or waffles
- Add to a bowl of yogurt or cottage cheese
- make aqua fresca (strawberry/watermelon is a great combination)
- make strawberry salsa (recipe follows)
This is a great way to use strawberries that have passed their peak. Great dip for chips, or as a side to burritos or tacos.
- 2 cups cleaned fresh strawberries
- 2 tsp fresh lime juice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 minced jalapeño, or to taste, ,depending on how hot the jalapeño is.
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1-2 TB minced fresh cilantro
- Step 1 Briefly pulse the berries in a food processor. They should be chunky.
- Step 2 Pour into a bowl and add the lime juice, salt, jalapeno, and sugar. Adjust flavors according to your preferences.
- Step 3 Allow the salsa to sit for 30 minutes before serving to let flavors blend.
- Step 4 Add cilantro before serving.