Strawberries are the first fruit, after rhubarb, to ripen in spring and early summer. Biting into a perfectly ripe strawberries is heavenly. They are versatile and are for more than just deserts; think salad, fruit cup, pastries. Arkansas grown strawberries are available from late April through the month of May.
As if being packed with sweetness and flavor isn't enough, they are packed with great nutrition, everything from folate to fiber to phytochemicals. They are low in calories and have no cholesterol or saturated fats. A one-cup serving of strawberries (8 medium size) will provide only 45 calories.
Diets high in vitamin C from fruits and vegetables are associated with lower cancer risk, especially for oral, esophageal, stomach, colon and lung cancers. Eight medium strawberries provide 96 milligrams of vitamin C, or 160 percent of the recommended daily intake. That's more vitamin C than one medium orange.
The folate that is found in eight medium strawberries provides 20 percent of the daily need for folate. The recommended daily intake for folate is 400 micrograms and, unfortunately, most Americans don't get enough.
Folate is one of the B vitamins found in various foods. Folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, is found in fortified foods and vitamin supplements.
Potassium is one of the minerals featured in the National Institutes of Health's Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, developed to decrease blood pressure through increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Eight medium strawberries provide 270 milligrams of potassium.
To get the most nutrition available from your strawberries, shop for fully ripened, bright red strawberries. Don't expect them to ripen after being picked.
Once berries are picked, use them as soon after purchased as possible to ensure the best color and appearance and highest nutritional value.
Handling and storage of fresh strawberries is easy if you follow these simple tips:
n Never wash strawberries or remove the caps until just before using them. Removing the cap early can reduce the flavor, texture, and nutrient quality.
n Refrigerate strawberries immediately after purchasing.
n To wash strawberries, place in a colander or large strainer and rinse with a gentle spray of cool water.
n Always remove bruised, rotted or molded berries before storing.
n Store strawberries only for a couple of days in the refrigerator. If they are held longer, a gray mold may develop.
n For optional storage, remove berries from their containers and arrange them no more than two berries deep in a shallow container or tray covered with waxed paper or plastic wrap.
When it's time to eat strawberries, you need to hull them, unless eating them out of hand. Hulling a strawberry means removing the inedible green caps from the fruit. Don't cut the top off; you are wasting good berry. Instead, place the tip of your paring knife at the base of the cap, insert gently to remove only the soft white part at the base of the stem and slowly turn the strawberry. Once you come full circle, the top will pop right off without sacrificing too much flesh.
There are specialty kitchen gadgets such as a strawberry huller, but a simple paring knife works just fine for me.
I cannot imagine a better breakfast than homemade strawberry scones, a bowl of fruit, and a cup of coffee.
Strawberry Drop Scones
1 cup strawberries (hulled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces)
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, unsifted
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2/3 cup milk
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add butter or margarine.
With a pastry blender or 2 knives used scissor-fashioned, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in strawberries; toss to coat. Add milk. With a fork, lightly toss together until mixture holds together. With floured hands, scoop approximately one and one half to 2 tablespoons of mix and drop on a greased cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve warm with butter, margarine or cream cheese; or serve plain.
Yields: 12 scones.
For your free copy of Arkansas Fresh Strawberries, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at email@example.com, on Facebook and Twitter at MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.
Carla Due is a county extension agent-staff chair with the Miller County Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.