Strawberries have a rich history, almost as rich as their sweet and succulent flavor that people have been savoring since the Roman times, reported BBC Good Food magazine. There was even a time when these berries were believed to be so lavish that they were saved only for royalty and newlyweds.
In 1714, a French engineer stationed in South America noticed that the strawberries grown in Chile and Peru were much larger than the ones he had seen in Europe. Bringing back a small plant to grow in his homeland, he ended up with a hybrid of the sweet, plump and juicy strawberry that is grown all over the world today.
Health Benefits of Strawberries
The Pritikin Diet and Eating Plan advises eating four or more servings of natural, whole fruits each day. Strawberries especially are a great fruit choice because of the excellent health benefits they provide. These heart-shaped berries are a great source of vitamin C, reported Eating Well magazine. In fact, you can get 163 percent of your daily dose of vitamin C with 1 cup of sliced strawberries that comes in at just 46 calories – making strawberries a fruit low in calorie density. That 1 cup can also provide 9 percent of your daily value of B vitamin folate and 12 percent of your daily value of fiber. By slowing digestion, it’s believed that the fiber along with fructose may aid in regulating blood sugar levels.
“Strawberries are filled with vitamin C, fiber and potassium.”
“They are one of those fruits that are great to have because of their nutritional value,” said Pritikin’s Chef Anthony.
Rich in polyphenols, strawberries can help promote healthy teeth by warding off gum disease and decay. These berries also supply a high dose of other essentials including folic acid, manganese and potassium, reported BBC Good Food.
How to Buy Strawberries
The most cultivated berry in the U.S., strawberries have a very long growing season, running from January all the way through November. Grown in every state throughout the country, the growing season may be slightly shorter or longer depending on the climate of the region. Regardless of region however, the ideal time for purchasing strawberries is during their peak, between the months of April and June, according to About Local Foods. By the first month of summer, it can almost be guaranteed that these berries will be a ripe fire truck-red hue.
“This time of year, strawberries at their best,” said Chef Anthony. “You’ll know because they’re brighter in color.”
When selecting berries at the local farmer’s market or grocery store, BBC Good Food advised choosing ones that appear to be shiny with a dark red hue and a bright green cap. They should be firm and plump. Avoid strawberries with blemishes or any sign of mold. It’s important to know that once these fruits have been picked from their vine, they will not grow or ripen any more, so do not buy dull white or yellow ones.
How to Store Strawberries
The Old Farmer’s Almanac reports that the seeded red fruits are best when kept unwashed in the refrigerator for three to five days, though they can be frozen for up to three months. To best retain the highest amount of vitamins, this fruit should be stored whole in the refrigerator, noted Eating Well. Slicing or crushing strawberries before freezing them may deplete them of some of these nutrients. When ready to eat, they should be washed gently and enjoyed at room temperature.
How to Eat Strawberries
Strawberries are one of those fruits that is best enjoyed by hand as soon as it’s been picked from the plant. At Pritikin, Chef Anthony enhances many of his dishes with these juicy berries. Mainly used in dessert items such as the popular strawberry chocolate mousse, he also uses them in savory dishes. One of the most exciting strawberry-infused items on his menu is a unique and creative twist on a classic side dish: strawberry mashed potatoes. While most guests are at first perplexed by combinations like these, Anthony knows the secret.
“My philosophy in cooking is that if you like the ingredients, when you combine them there’s a good chance you’re going to love it,” he said. “We think outside of the traditional box, but once [guests] try them they are very excited.”
This rings especially true for strawberries. Anthony and his team have developed a strawberry balsamic reduction, a strawberry compote with vinegar, as well as a puree that’s often served with bison – just to name a few. Fresh, rinsed and sliced, these bright and fragrant berries can be added to yogurt or cereals, leafy green salads, main dinner courses and even desserts. As Chef Anthony likes to say, “it’s a go-to fruit because it works well with just about anything you like!”