With the crazy weather we have had, strawberries have been confused. We had a few really early weeks of fresh strawberries, and now we are enjoying a second round. Hopefully, we might have a couple of more weeks to get the most out of strawberry season.
Every state grows strawberries, but North Carolina is the fourth-largest producer of strawberries in the U.S. Almost all strawberries grown in North Carolina are eaten right here. Nothing beats the aroma and taste of freshly picked strawberries.
Besides tasting delicious, strawberries are also very good for you. They are low in calories (50 per cup) and high in vitamins A and C, and in folic acid. A half-cup of strawberries provides 81 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.
Our bodies cannot make Vitamin C, so we need to eat foods rich in Vitamin C, like strawberries. Vitamin C helps our bodies heal cuts and wounds and helps lower our risk of infection. Vitamin C also helps our bodies absorb the iron found in foods.
Strawberries do not ripen after picking, so when selecting berries, look for the ones that are firm, yet fully ripe. Be sure the cap remains on the berry, for when it is removed, you tear cells in the berries, activating an enzyme that destroys the Vitamin C. Look for plump berries with a natural shine, rich red color, bright green caps, and a sweet smell. Use berries as soon after harvesting or purchasing as possible. Store berries loosely-covered with plastic wrap in a shallow container and place in the coldest part of your refrigerator for two to three days, at most.
Do not wash berries until you are ready to use them, as washing may cause bruising and loss of freshness. In addition, removing the caps before use will cause the berries to loose moisture. So, before serving, use cool water to gently wash strawberries with the green caps still attached.
When preparing, do not allow them to sit in the water, as they will lose color and flavor. Remove the green caps with a gentle twist or with the point of a sharp paring knife, being careful not to remove any of the fruit.
In preparing your favorite recipes, remember that a half-cup of sliced strawberries is about four large strawberries or one cupped handful. When purchasing by the pound, one-and-a-half pounds equals one quart. This will yield about four cups of sliced strawberries.
So go out and enjoy some strawberries this season. They are good and they are good for you!
Janine Rywak is director of the Anson County Cooperative Extension.