Florida ranks second in the United States in the production of strawberries. Florida produces 15 percent of the total U.S. crop and 100 percent of the domestically produced winter crop. Consumers are able to enjoy Florida strawberries from January through June each year.
Strawberries can be delectable — the fresher, the better. To select the best berry, look for small to medium-sized strawberries that are dry and fully ripened — rich red, without any pale patches. (Unlike some other fruits, strawberries don’t ripen any further after being picked.) Avoid berries that appear shrunken or dull and those with soft spots or large seedy areas, and, of course, any with signs of decay or mold. In addition, green leafy stems should be intact, and remain so until after you wash the berries. If you do buy strawberries that are prepackaged, they should be loosely packed to avoid damage.
Strawberries are a great source of vitamin C — a cup of raw strawberries has a little more (97 milligrams) than a cup of orange slices. It also provides plenty of fiber (three grams per cup) and manganese, and it’s not a bad source of folate and potassium. Strawberries are also chock-full of phytonutrients that help fight cancer, heart disease and macular degeneration, including lutein, zeaxanthin, ellagic acid and anthocyanins (the pigment that makes strawberries red). And all that for about 50 calories.
Once you get the berries home and in your kitchen, sort through them and discard any that aren’t good quality. Experts say not to wash or cut strawberries until you’re ready to eat them — they’ll stay fresher a bit longer. The best way to store strawberries is in the refrigerator in a single layer in a shallow container, covered with a paper towel and plastic wrap. Gently handled, they should keep fresh for at least a few days this way.
The best strawberries are those that are fresh and in season — enjoy them while you can.
Spinach Salad with Berries and Citrus Dressing
4 cups fresh spinach, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 cup thickly sliced strawberries
½ cup blueberries
¼ cup chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate
2 teaspoons honey or sugar
Wash and dry spinach. Whip together dressing ingredients. Add dressing to spinach and toss lightly. Add berries and walnuts. Toss lightly and serve. Serves 6
1 pint fresh strawberries, sliced
4 roma (plum) tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Toss all together to mix and coat. Cover dish and chill for 2 hours in refrigerator. Makes 4 cups of salsa. Ten calories for two tablespoons.
Questions? Contact Sharon Treen, UF/IFAS Extension, Flagler County Director firstname.lastname@example.org