Friday, August 29, 2014

Looking ahead to strawberry season

Mary Ann Lienhart Cross writes about strawberries.
Posted on June 2, 2013 at 1:00 a.m.

Mary Ann Lienhart Cross

Food & Nutrition

I hear more comments and excitement about fresh locally grown strawberries than any other fruit. I know I am a little bit ahead of the local berries but they will soon be ripe. The rain I hear many of you complaining about is needed not only for the berries, vegetable and flower gardens but also the farm crops.

To me there is nothing like fresh locally grown strawberries and freezing strawberries for later use. Recently some of my friends were discussing strawberry memories from when they were children. When it was strawberry season, strawberry shortcake was what we all ate for dinner, and some of us also had it for breakfast. As the discussion continued, there were varying opinions on whether you put milk on the berries and shortcake. I personally like some milk.

Now to the list of strawberry possibilities I will start with just a bowl of fresh strawberries, then fresh strawberry pie — the kind that has a cream cheese mixture in the bottom — then a smoothie, thickened strawberries on waffles and in a salad. I almost forgot strawberries with chocolate hazelnut butter!

Strawberries are one of those fruits that you need to enjoy as soon as they are ripe, as the season is not long. The berries are also affected by the weather, be it rain or lack of it, and all the various temperatures. My advice is when they are ripe, start eating them and eat them often. I think that the flavor of the berries is best if you eat them while you are picking. If you get carried away with eating at you-pick patch, you probably should pay for an extra quart.

It took several centuries and a side trip to Europe to produce the strawberry as you know it today. In the early 18th century, French explorers discovered a plump, red berry being cultivated by the Indians of Chile in South America. They brought several plants back to their homeland. In 1714 the Chilean berry was crossed with a wild meadow strawberry discovered a few years earlier in the North American colony of Virginia. The resulting berry was the forerunner of our modern strawberry.

When selecting, or picking, choose fully ripened, bright red strawberries. The berries do change color after picking, but the flavor is not the same as plant-ripened berries. Berries should have a natural shine, be plump, well rounded and have a rich red color and have bright green fresh-looking caps. To ensure the highest nutritional value, flavor and appearance, it is best if you use strawberries as soon as they are picked or purchased. If you want to store berries, they will keep best if arranged in a single layer on a cookie sheet or other shallow container for refrigeration. The cool refrigerator temperature will help keep the berries fresh and bright for several days.

To keep berries at their best don’t wash them or remove caps until just before using. Washing removes the natural protective outer layer. The caps protect the strawberries nutrients and help preserve flavor and texture. Strawberries are delicate and require gentle handling. Never remove the caps before rinsing strawberries. To rinse, place berries in a colander or large strainer and rinse with a gentle spray of cool water. The caps prevent water and soil from soaking into the strawberries, changing the texture and diluting the flavor.

When it comes to food value, strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C, with one cup supplying about 150 percent of the U.S. recommended daily allowance for the average adult. You would not think of it but strawberries are a source of iron, so it’s good to know that one cup of fresh, whole strawberries provides about 8 percent of the U.S. RDA for iron. One of the best things about strawberries is that a whole cup has only about 60 calories.

Here is a biscuit recipe I use for strawberry shortcake. If you don’t already have a family favorite, try this one:

Southern Gal Biscuits

2 cups flour

4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 cup shortening

1 egg, unbeaten

2/3 cup milk

Mix all dry ingredients together. Add shortening and blend together. Pour milk into flour mixture slowly. Add the egg. Stir to a stiff dough. Drop by spoonful on baking sheet and bake 10-15 minutes at 450 degrees.

Mary Ann Lienhart Cross is Elkhart County Extension Director and an extension educator at Purdue Extension Elkhart County. Contact her at 574-533-0554 or

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