Did you know that the United States is the world’s largest commercial producer of strawberries? The U.S. produces 3 billion pounds of strawberries per year! Fresh strawberries are characterized by their red color, juicy texture, distinct aroma, and sweet, fruity flavor. Since there are over 500 varieties of strawberries grown worldwide, you can easily buy strawberries year-round. Although, my favorite time to eat strawberries is the early summer because it reminds me of when my family would pick the freshest, most succulent strawberries right off the vine. J
The perennial garden strawberry fruit, Frageria X ananassa, is a hybrid species commonly grown in the United States for commercial sale. The hybrid-cross originated accidentally in Europe around 1750 and hundreds of hybrids have been discovered since! Strawberries are characterized by stolons, which are root runners that form new vines at the axillary buds that allow them to undergo vegetative reproduction. These stolon vines are ideal for commercial producers to yield mass amounts of mouth-watering, aromatic strawberries.
The crown (shortened stem) will develop a strawberry flower at the axillary bud during the late summer or early fall of the year prior to fruiting. The fruit are picked between the April and June months when they are red, plump, and full of flavor. Interestingly enough – strawberries are not true berries! They are fleshy receptacles of a berry and bear many one-seeded fruits on the exterior surface of the skin. These fruits are apparent small seeds, called achenes, which have a hard outer covering to prevent the seed from splitting open when ripened.
Strawberries have numerous health benefits and rank among the top 10 fruits and vegetables for antioxidant content. Recent studies have found that 30% of the total antioxidant capacity (TAC) of strawberries is provided by their vitamin C content. In one cup of strawberries there is 149% of the Daily Value (DV) of vitamin C! The antioxidant properties of this fruit have been found to serve many health benefits to consumers. In women, consumption of 3 servings of strawberries per week has been found to reduce the risk of a heart attack by 32%. Additionally, the flavonoid quercetin, an anti-inflammatory agent, has appeared to reduce the damage caused by low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, lower the risk of atherosclerosis, and alleviate symptoms of allergies.
Strawberries are also rich in fiber, potassium, and folic acid. This fruit is recommended to help stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics because of its high fiber content and its low glycemic index of 40, which is lower than most other fruits. Potassium is important to incorporate in your diet to promote heart health and to lower blood pressure. Lastly, folic acid is essential for pregnant women to protect against neural tube defects in infants and may also help people with depression by preventing excess homocysteine levels from forming in the body.
How to Enjoy
Strawberries are available year-round in many forms- fresh, frozen, freeze-dried, handpicked, jellies/jams, and syrups. Fresh strawberries are very perishable and should be eaten within a few days after purchase. When choosing which berries to buy, consider ones that are firm, plump, free of mold or bruising, and are medium-sized and deep red with green, leafy caps. When handpicking strawberries, pick them in the morning when the fruits are cool and immediately store them in the refrigerator. Wait until just before you eat or cook them to rinse with cool water. To freeze strawberries, first gently wash them and pat them dry. You can either remove the cap, or keep them on. Place the strawberries in a single layer and place them in the freezer and add a bit of lemon juice to the strawberries to help preserve their color.
These fruits are most susceptible to nematodes and pathogenic soil fungi; therefore many growers sterilize the soil with pesticides and chemicals, such as methyl bromide. This is a huge controversy in today’s society because the USDA has recently discovered that well over half of all strawberry samples contained pesticide residues, and over 30% of those strawberry samples contained five or more pesticides. Therefore, it is best to shop for certified organically grown strawberries with the USDA organic logo on the container to reduce your likelihood of exposure to contaminants.
Strawberry Fields Salad
This juicy, fresh salad is bursting with flavor! It is a perfect combination of sweetness from the strawberries and glazed pecans, saltiness from the feta cheese and bacon, and tartness from the dressing. This recipe is perfect for a lighter lunch while enjoying yourself by the poolside or to serve as a main dish at a summer family cookout.
1 (5-ounce) package mixed greens
2 cups sliced strawberries
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
1/2 cup glazed pecans, recipe below
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- To make the dressing, whisk together all ingredients except oil. Gradually whisk in oil.
- To make the pecans, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small saucepan, bring water, sugar, salt, and peppers to a boil. Add pecans and stir for 30 seconds to coat well. Transfer to a baking sheet greased with butter. Bake 12-14 minutes.
- In a large salad bowl, toss together greens, strawberries, onion, cranberries, feta cheese, chicken, bacon, and pecans
- Toss with desired amount of dressing. Serves 4-6.
About: At an early age I learned that I had a passion to learn about life sciences and the relationship between plants and humans. In college, I helped prepare and serve local-grown produce for market gardeners and market farmers. I graduated from Clemson in May 2016 with a B.S. degree in Food Science: Nutrition and Dietetics. Although I love learning about nutrition, I realized that it is more of an interest of mine, rather than a career path. Starting in August, I will be attending Clemson’s Accelerated Nursing Program. I would love to use my previous nutrition background to promote my patients to maintain a healthy living lifestyle. Through this blog, I hope to spark an interest in the farming community to learn more about the nutritional value of their products and to promote the benefits of buying fresh, delicious, and locally grown foods.
- Schwieterman, Michael L. et al. “Strawberry Flavor: Diverse Chemical Compositions, a Seasonal Influence, and Effects on Sensory Perception.” Ed. Miyako Kusano. PLoS ONE2 (2014): e88446. PMC. Web. 13 Mar. 2017.
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