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The Strawberry: America’s Most Loved Berry

 

Who doesn’t love strawberries? This quintessential summer berry is low in fat and calories and high in vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, and potassium. And not to mention, delicious.

 

Once a sure sign of summer, this beloved berry is now available virtually all year long. The Roman’s valued strawberries for their healing powers for everything from fevers to stomach aches. A member of the rose family, these berries grow wild on several continents and have been cultivated since the late thirteenth century.

 

Today’s American strawberries are a result of the crossbreeding of a wild Virginian strawberry and a Chilean berry over 200 years ago. It has taken years to breed this most common American variety  which can now withstand both shipping and storage. This has somewhat changed their natural sweetness and flavor so when locally grown berries are in the market, it is worth seeking them out.  In most of the United States, locally grown berries reach the market in May and June. Look for them at your local farmers market or a near-by strawberry farm.

 

A local strawberry farm made it possible for my children and I to enjoy fresh-picked, sweet,  bright red, seed-speckled berries during  the early summer months. The kids initially grumbled about helping pick, but ended up enjoying the hunt. They both usually ate as much as they picked, but we managed to come home with plenty for enjoying.

 

I always make sure to put some strawberries aside to make strawberry jam. If you have never made homemade strawberry jam, it is fairly easy especially if you choose to make strawberry freezer jam. This no-cook method doesn’t require water bath processing and a batch can be made in 30 minutes or less.

 

 

Strawberry Freezer Jam Recipe

 

Strawberry Basics

 

When picking or shopping for strawberries at the supermarket, look for berries that are ripe, brightly colored, plump and fragrant with their green caps still attached. There is nothing you can do to ripen them further. Avoid any soft, shriveled or moldy berries.

Refrigerate  strawberries for up to three days after purchase. Don’t wash them until you are ready to use them. Wash the berries quickly under cold running water with the stem still attached. Pat them dry with a paper towel. Never soak berries in water as they can easily get waterlogged and soggy. Remove the cap and inner white core using a paring knife of a strawberry huller. Use them whole, halved or sliced. One pound or about 1 pint of strawberries equals 2 cups sliced berries.

 

Berries can also be frozen.  To freeze, hull the berries and arrange them in a single layer on a cookie sheet or jelly-roll plan. Place them in the freezer until they are frozen solid and then transfer to freezer-safe containers and tightly seal. They will keep frozen for up to 9 months.

Fresh strawberries are wonderful just eaten plain, with cream or a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar, lemon or wine. I have friends who sprinkle them with a little freshly ground black pepper. They insist this brings out the sweetness of the fruit.

 

Strawberries are a favorite in ice creams, sorbet, dessert sauces and fruit salads. Who doesn’t have several favorite strawberry dessert recipes? Or a favorite salad recipe made special with strawberries? It’s hard to go wrong with an American classic like shortcake.

 

Mixed Berry Shortcake Recipe

Delicious strawberry desserts, easy garnishes and simple snacks simply can be created with strawberries..

My Favorite Strawberry Recipes

This strawberry season, pay homage to American’s favorite berry- the strawberry. Here are a few of my favorite dishes. I hope your family loves them as much as mine does.

A great salad to serve with a piece of cheese for lunch or with an entrée at dinner:

Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing

Pie is always a favorite at our house and these easy crusts made with shortbread cookies and pretzels  add a new twist to your favorite strawberry pie recipes.

 

Fresh Strawberry Almond Pie

 

Frozen Strawberry Margarita Pie

 

A winner among strawberry smoothie recipes! Try this smoothie as a simple afternoon thirst quencher or a great start to the day.

 

 

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

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