Delicious, rich-red, sweet, yet gently tangy strawberries are among the most popular berries. These berries are native to Europe, however, nowadays cultivated in many temperate regions all over the world as an important commercial crop. Botanically, the plant is a low-growing runner (creeper) belonging to the family of Rosaceae, in the genus: Fragaria.
Strawberry is a small, low-lying, spreading shrub. It bears small white flowers which eventually develop into small conical, light green, immature fruits. They turn red up on maturity with each berry featuring red pulp with tiny, yellow color seeds piercing through its surface from inside. Its top end carries a green leafy cap and stem that is adorning its crown.
Each berry features conical shape, weighs about 25 grams and measures about 3 cm in diameter. The berries have the taste that varies by cultivar type, and ranges from quite sweet to acidic.
There are hundreds of different varieties of strawberries produced which may vary in size, shape, texture, taste, and color. Their variations are generally distinguished by the locale in which they are grown. The difference between varieties is sometimes hard to distinguish and they are generally not labeled as to what variety they are. There are three basic types of cultivated strawberries; June-bearing, Ever-bearing, and Day-Neutral. Cultivated strawberries are grown to be larger so they attract the consumer's attention but wild strawberry varieties, even though they are smaller, have a tendency to be juicier and more flavorful.
Three Basic Types of Cultivated Strawberries
A type of cultivated strawberry that bears fruit one time a year producing a heavy crop over an approximately a three week period. The majority of the June-bearing varieties produce the berries in June but there are some varieties that produce as early as April in warmer climates and some that will produce in late fall. June-bearers are generally of better quality and bear large crops, which are many times made into jams and jellies or they can be canned or frozen to prepare them for storage and then used at a later date.
A type of cultivated strawberry that bears two crops of berries, one in the spring or early summer and one in the fall. They begin to produce when the days begin to produce more than 12 hours of sunlight. The first crop generally produces the most berries and the fall crop is lighter with a few berries also produced in between. Both crops do not equal the amount produced by the June-bearing varieties. Ever-bearing varieties are better if you are more interested in snacking and making desserts from the berries rather than preserving them.
A fairly new type of cultivated strawberry that is a variety of ever-bearing strawberries that produce berries throughout the growing season. They generally have three peak times of production with the first bearing the most berries. In the north the growing season is June through October and in milder climates it is January to August. Day-Neutral strawberries like cool conditions for growing and are sensitive to heat and drought. The berries are smaller than June-bearers but are very flavorful.
The original strawberries that existed, which different varieties of these berries were crossed to develop the cultivated strawberries that are more readily available today. Wild strawberries are much smaller than the cultivated berries but they are more fragrant, juicier, and sweeter. There are many varieties of wild strawberries.
Garden strawberry is a widely grown hybrid species of the genus Fragaria. It is cultivated worldwide for its fruit. The fruit is widely appreciated for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture, and sweetness. It is consumed in large quantities, either fresh or in such prepared foods as preserves, fruit juice, pies, ice creams, milkshakes, and chocolates. Artificial strawberry aroma is also widely used in many industrial food products.
The garden strawberry was first bred in Brittany, France, in the 1750s via a cross of Fragaria virginiana from eastern North America and Fragaria chiloensis, which was brought from Chile by Amédée-François Frézier in 1714. Cultivars of Fragaria ananassa have replaced, in commercial production, the woodland strawberry, which was the first strawberry species cultivated in the early 17th century.
Selection and storage
1. Strawberries are available year-round but they will be at their best and most plentiful during the peak season, which is April through July.
2. Purchasing them from local growers during their harvesting season will provide the freshest and most flavorful berries.
3. Look for strawberries that are a shiny, bright red color. Dull red berries are an indication that they are overripe. The strawberries should smell sweet, fruity, which is an indication that they will have a sweet flavor.
4. They should be firm without bruises or soft spots, which cause the berries to deteriorate quickly. The damaged berries can contaminate the other berries and cause them to deteriorate.
5. Always check the entire container of strawberries, top and bottom, to avoid purchasing berries that are dull, bruised, or moldy.
6. Generally the size of the strawberries is not an indication of how sweet and flavorful they are, although very large strawberries tend to be less flavorful
Ripe strawberries are often eaten raw as whole, sliced or crushed berries. When sugar is added to strawberries, their natural juices are drawn out and crushed berries will produce a sauce that can be eaten as is or poured over shortcake or ice cream. Strawberries are used as an ingredient in many salads, pies, cakes, sorbets, and other desserts. They are used as appetizers or a garnish on appetizer and cheese platters. A popular dessert is strawberries dipped in chocolate. Strawberries mixed in a blender with ice cream, yogurt, milk or other fruits make delicious and healthy shakes, savory dishes
. They can also be cooked and made into jellies and jams. It is also one of the most popular flavorings in candies and other sweet products. Dried strawberries, which make sweet, chewy treats, are also quite common and are often added to snack mixes
Preparation and serving tips
To wash strawberries, dip them in cold water in a large bowl for few seconds and swish gently few times. This helps remove any sand and insecticide/fungicide residues. Then, gently pat them dry using a paper towel or cloth. This method also helps berries bring back to normal room temperature and enriches their flavor and taste. Remove stems and caps by simply sniping off with your fingers or using a paring knife.
Here are some serving tips:
They can be a great snack between meals. Dried strawberry slices can be added in muffins, pie, cakes and are used in cereal flakes as a breakfast meal.
The berries are a popular addition to dairy products; as in strawberry flavored ice cream, milkshakes, smoothies and yogurts.
Health Benefits of Strawberries
Health benefits of strawberry :
1.One cup of strawberries contains only 43 calories, has fiber that helps lower blood pressure, and curbs overeating.
2. Antioxidants: Strawberries contain chemical compounds called phenols. Anthocyanin, a particular phenol abundantly found in strawberries, lends the rich red color to the fruit. Strawberries also contain vitamin C, folate, and the favonoids, quercetin and kaempferol.
3. Anti-inflammatory: The phenols in strawberries also fight against many in?ammatory disorders, such as osteoarthritis, cancer, asthma and atherosclerosis.
4. B-complex: The fruit is rich in B-complex group of vitamins. It contains very good amounts of vitamin B-6, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and folic acid.
5.Magnificent Manganese: One cup of strawberries contains 21 percent of manganese, an essential nutrient that acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-in?ammatory agent. Manganese is also great for the bones.
6. Bone Health: Strawberries have potassium, vitamin K, and magnesium— important for bone health
7. Strawberries are good for your eyes, proper brain function, and provide relief from high blood pressure, arthritis, gout and heart diseases.
8. Anti-aging properties: Strawberries have biotin, which helps build strong hair and nails. Strawberries also contain the antioxidant ellagic acid, which protects the elastic fibers in our skin to help prevent sagging.
9. Vigorous Vitamin C: One cup of strawberries contains an incredible 136 percent of the RDA of vitamin C, an effective antioxidant. Vitamin C is vital for connective tissue (collagen) formation, which keeps our skin looking young. Vitamin C has an important role in anti-aging.
10. Weight Loss: Strawberries contain a compound called nitrate that has positive effects on blood flow and oxygen around the body. Nitrate stops muscles from becoming too tired after exercise.
Some useful tips
1. Bring out the flavor of strawberries by sprinkling with a dash of pepper, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice or orange juice.
2. Adding sugar, lemon juice or orange juice to strawberries will help preserve their bright color.
3. When cleaning strawberries, avoid soaking them in water. Because they are so porous, strawberries will absorb the water, causing them to become waterlogged and lose some of their flavor.
4. If substituting frozen strawberries for fresh berries in a recipe, substitute as follows: if strawberries are unsweetened, use equal amounts of frozen berries as called for fresh; if frozen strawberries are sweetened, reduce the amount of sugar called for in the recipe by 1 cup for each quart of strawberries; if a sugar syrup has been used to sweeten the frozen berries, reduce the amount of liquid called for in the recipe.
5. One pint of fresh strawberries is equal to 2 1/2 cups whole, 1 3/4 cups sliced, 1 1/4 cups puréed, 24 medium, 36 small.
6. Twelve pounds of fresh strawberries are equal to approximately 8 quarts. This quantity will produce approximately 13 pints of frozen strawberries.
1. Strawberries are the only fruit that wear their seeds on the outside. The average berry is adorned with some 200 of them. No wonder it only takes one bite to get seeds stuck in your teeth.
2. Strawberries aren’t true berries, like blueberries or even grapes. Technically, a berry has its seeds on the inside. And, to be über technical, each seed on a strawberry is considered by botanists to be its own separate fruit.
3. Strawberries are members of the rose family. Should you come upon a bush of them growing, you’ll see: they smell as sweet as they taste.
4. The strawberry plant is a perennial. This means if you plant one now, it will come back next year and the following and the year after that. It may not bear fruit immediately, but once it does, it will remain productive for about five years.
5. Americans eat an average of three-and-a-half pounds of fresh strawberries each per year. It’s closer to five pounds if you count frozen ones. In a study, more than half of nine-year-olds picked strawberries as their favorite fruit.
6. Belgium has a museum dedicated to strawberries. In the gift shop at Le Musée de la Fraise (The Strawberry Museum), you can buy everything from strawberry jam to strawberry beer.
7. Native Americans ate strawberries long before European settlers arrived. As spring’s first fruit, they were a treat, eaten freshly picked or baked into cornbread.
8. The ancient Romans thought strawberries had medicinal powers. They used them to treat everything from depression to fainting to fever, kidney stones, bad breath and sore throats.
9. In France, where they’re believed to be an aphrodisiac, strawberries are served to newlyweds at traditional wedding breakfasts in the form of a creamy sweet soup.
10. Strawberries are believed to help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. They are low in calories and high in vitamins C, B6, K, fiber, folic acid, potassium and amino acids.
11. Strawberries contain high levels of nitrate. This has been shown to increase blood and oxygen flow to the muscles. Research suggests that people who load up on strawberries before exercising have greater endurance and burn more calories.
12. California produces some 80% of the strawberries in the U.S. They grow about 2 billion pounds of the heart-shaped fruits per year. Every state in the U.S. and every province in Canada grows their own.
13. To store fresh strawberries, wash them and cut the stem away. However, if you plan to keep them in the fridge for a few days, wait until before you eat them to clean them. Rinsing them speeds up spoiling.
14. Strawberries can also be pickled. Especially when picked green or unripe. If your berries are overripe, make jam!
15. Did you know that on average there are 200 seeds on each on us.
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