The ingredient: strawberries
Strawberries are one of summer’s most glorious gifts—not least because of all the powerful antioxidants they provide. Make your summer “berry lovely” with one (or all) of these fresh strawberry recipes: Strawberry Chiffon, Strawberry & Lentil Salad and Strawberries in Balsamic Syrup.
Strawberries, which belong to the rose family, have been growing wild for centuries. They were first domesticated in Europe in the 18th century when two varieties (one from North America, one from Chile) were crossed to produce a large, hardy berry suited to cultivation, a kind similar to what we have today. These days it’s not easy to find tiny wild strawberries—unless you grow them yourself—but they’re the ones that have the most intense flavor.
Strawberries can be found year-round, but for the best flavor, buy local berries in season (late spring and into summer). They stop ripening once picked, so avoid unripe berries. One way to tell if the berries are good to eat is by giving them a sniff. If they smell great, they’ll taste great. Don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them: The moisture promotes mold and waterlogs the berries. Keep them dry and in the fridge—for a few days at most.
In a recent study of more than 1,000 foods, strawberries were found to be third in total antioxidants per serving (after blackberries and walnuts): One serving of eight medium strawberries contains more than 100 percent of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin C. Strawberries are also rich in ellagic acid, a phytochemical that may protect the body against cell-damaging free radicals. So go ahead, pile them on everything!
Did you know?
- Today, strawberries are grown in all 50 states, but the largest harvest (about 75 percent of this country's total) comes from California.
- Strawberries are a "false fruit." Technically the seeds that cover their exterior are the fruit, and the berry is just the host for the seeds.
- The name may have come from the way strawberry plants grow by "strewing," or scattering about via runners that travel low to the ground.
- In-season strawberries used to be available only in June, but a newer variety of berries, called day neutrals, can bear fruit from spring through fall.