Berry Of The Week: Strawberries!

strawberriesWhen the summer comes, we think of swimming pools and flip flops, sunny days and shorts, and of course delicious, fresh fruit! Berries are some of our favorite ways to cool down, have a yummy snack, and get those healthy nutrients. Today, we’re sharing information you need to know on one of the most popular fruits there is: strawberries. Enjoy – then go get yourself a bowl!

History of Strawberries

Much like the tomato is actually a fruit rather than the vegetable we all think it is, the strawberry is not really a fruit. Strawberries are actually the receptacle of the strawberry flower, making it a “false fruit”. The first strawberries were discovered in the year 1588 by Europeans in America. Strawberries are naturally from North America. The fruit was abundant in the wild, so it was not a cash-crop at first.

In ancient Rome and France, strawberries were used for medicinal purposes. They were used to treat digestive problems and skin diseases, using the fruit itself as well as the roots and leaves of the strawberry plant.

In the 1700s in North America, people cross bred the American and European strawberries until they had the sweet taste and perfect size they have today.

The word strawberry is said to be derived from the farmers’ practice of mulching the plant with straw and also because strawberries were such a common sight, the word comes from ‘strewn’ and ‘berries’.

Love the strawberry scent in your soap, shampoo, and other beauty products? You can thank Madam Thérésa Tallien, a wealthy socialite from France who popularized the use of strawberries in cosmetics and facial treatments. She used to scatter sliced strawberries in her bath water and claimed her ‘strawberry bath’ protected her from all skin problems.

Today, strawberries are cultivated on a large scale in the state of California in the US. Around 25,000 acres of land is under strawberry cultivation in the States. California produces around 80% of strawberry, that is consumed in the United States.

Where Can I Buy Strawberries?

In summer months, strawberries are the most abundant and delicious. During strawberry season, pick up strawberries at any local grocery store. To find the healthiest strawberries, head to your local Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s for the organic choice. Raspberries are expensive to buy at the store for several reasons. Their softness and tendency to bruise easily make them highly perishable and hard to ship.

Where Are They Grown Locally?

While 80% of strawberry production is in California, strawberries are locally grown here in Michigan too. If you’re interested in picking your own strawberries straight from the farm, check out some of these farms in Oakland County that grow strawberries.

  • Long Family Orchard & Cider Mill You can pick strawberries in June!
    Commerce  Twp., MI  Phone: 248-360-3774. Directions: Located in Commerce Twp. at Commerce & Bogie Lake Road, just N of Huron Valley Hospital. 5 miles E of Milford. 4 miles S of M-59. From the S, take Haggerty N to the end, turn left, then right. At the third light (Wise Rd.) turn left, go 3 miles.
  • Middleton Berry FarmPick strawberries all summer!
    4888 Oakwood Road, Ortonville, MI 48462. Phone: 248-628-1819. Email: middletonberryfarm@yahoo.com. Directions: 5 miles east of Ortonville between M-15 and M-24. From I-75 take Exit 84 (Baldwin Rd.). Go north on Baldwin Rd 10 miles to Oakwood Road, turn left. Farm is one mile on the left.

To find more local farms, check out Pick Your Own.

Organic vs. Conventional

So should you buy those conventional strawberries at your local Meijer or head to a Whole Foods Market to get organic?

Growing conventional strawberries involves using methyl bromide as a pre-plant fumigant for soil. Methyl bromide is a toxic chemical that has resulted in harmful side-effects to farm workers.

Also, according to the USDA Pesticide Data Program, the pesticide residue on conventional strawberries is the highest among ALL the fruits. Over 50 pesticide residues were identified! There is more and more information coming out that pesticides are extremely harmful for our health, especially for pregnant women and children.

We recommend choosing the safe option and picking organic strawberries. They are a bit more expensive, but if you care about our planet and your health, it is the right choice. Organic strawberries use less non-renewable resources, eliminate the use of toxic chemicals that harm our environment and health of farmers, conserves resources, and values health.

If you simply can’t afford to choose all organic fruits and vegetables, be sure to clean your fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating. Scrub using a vegetable brush, soak in either salt water or vinegar, and peel the skin off whenever possible.

Nutritional Benefits

Strawberries are packed with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, iodine, high levels of antioxidants called polyphenols, manganese, potassium, and are sodium-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, and low calorie. This heart-shaped fruit has been known to protect your hearth, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and guard against cancer.

Some Yummy & Healthy Recipes

strawberry-arugula-saladArugula & Strawberry Salad

4 servings, 1 1/2 cups each

Active Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 cups baby arugula, or torn arugula leaves
  • 2 cups sliced strawberries, (about 10 ounces)
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved and crumbled into small pieces (1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar, (see Ingredient note)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Preparation

  1. Toast walnuts in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and aromatic, 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a salad bowl; let cool for 5 minutes.
  2. Add arugula, strawberries, Parmesan, pepper and salt. Sprinkle vinegar and oil over the salad; toss gently and serve at once.

Tips & Notes

  • Ingredient Note: Aged balsamic vinegar (12 years or older) is a treat, but not an economical one. If you don’t want to spring for a $40 bottle, use regular balsamic. Alternatively, bring 1/2 cup regular balsamic vinegar to a boil over high heat in a small skillet. Cook until the vinegar begins to thicken and become syrupy, 2 to 3 minutes.

Nutrition

Per serving: 204 calories; 16 g fat ( 3 g sat , 5 g mono ); 7 mg cholesterol; 10 g carbohydrates; 7 g protein; 3 g fiber; 251 mg sodium; 262 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (70% daily value), Calcium (20% dv).

Carbohydrate Servings: 1/2

Exchanges: 1/2 fruit, 1 vegetable, 1 lean meat, 2 1/2 fat


strawberry-rhubarb-crepesStrawberry-Rhubarb Crepes

8 servings, 2 crepes each

Active Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 1/4 hours

Ingredients

  • 16 Whole-Wheat, Buckwheat or Cornmeal Crepes, (recipe follows)
  • 1/2 cup Vanilla Cream, (recipe follows) or 1 cup low-fat vanilla ice cream
  • 2 1/2 cups Strawberry-Rhubarb Filling, (recipe follows)
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preparation

  1. Prepare crepe batter. While it is resting, drain yogurt for Vanilla Cream, if using, and make filling.
  2. Finish crepe batter and cook crepes.
  3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread about 2 tablespoons filling over one half of the less-attractive side of each crepe. Fold the unfilled side over the filling, then fold the crepe in half to make a fan shape. Overlap the crepes slightly in the prepared baking dish.
  4. Cover the crepes with foil and bake until heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, finish the Vanilla Cream, if making. Dust the crepes with sugar and serve with Vanilla Cream (or ice cream).

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare through Step 3; cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
  • Ingredient note: Buckwheat flour is available at natural-foods stores or by mail-order from Bob’s Red Mill, (800) 349-2173, www.bobsredmill.com.

Nutrition

Per serving: 195 calories; 5 g fat ( 2 g sat , 1 g mono ); 87 mg cholesterol; 37 g carbohydrates; 7 g protein; 3 g fiber; 120 mg sodium; 373 mg potassium.

Carbohydrate Servings: 2

Exchanges: 1 starch, 1/2 fruit, 1 other carbohydrate, 1/2 fat

Recipes courtesy of Eating Well – click there for more strawberry recipes!

You may also like:

Go Organic, Even on a Budget

Free-Form Fruit Desserts

Spring is in the air…and on the plate!

To read more from Lauren, check out Lauren’s Thoughts!

© Copyright 2011  Allison Stuart Kaplan  www.Askinyourface.com LLC

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