Strawberry history goes back over 2,200 years ago. It is thought that the name “strawberry” came from the practice of growers spreading a layer of straw around the plants when the berries begin to form. The 600 strawberry varieties found today stem from five or six original wild species, and are a member of the rose family.
Strawberries are ready in Bladen County. Whether you pick your own, or buy them from a produce stand or grocery store, here are some tips to help you enjoy them in simple preparations to savor their sweet flavor.
Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C. A one cup serving provides more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin C.
One cup of unsweetened berries contains only 55 calories.
Berries should have a full red color, bright luster and firm, plump flesh.
Choose fully ripe berries. Strawberries do not ripen after being picked. Avoid berries with green or white tips.
The caps should be bright green, fresh looking and fully attached.
Berries should be dry and clean; usually medium to small berries have better eating quality than large ones.
Avoid berries with large uncolored or seedy areas or those with a dull, soft look.
Use strawberries as soon after purchase as possible.
Take berries home immediately after purchase. Remove the berries from their market or store container. Leaving the caps on the berries, sort and gently arrange them in a single layer on a cookie sheet or other shallow container. Store in the refrigerator immediately.
Just before serving, wash them in cold water in a colander. Drain and remove caps by giving them an easy twist with a strawberry huller or sharp knife.
Eat them within 48 to 72 hours, or freeze them.
Due to the many variables, such as moisture content, size and variety, it is impossible to give specific recommendations as to quantity to buy. As a rule of thumb, 1 quart strawberries = approximately 3-3/4 cups hulled, whole berries.
Source: Ohio Cooperative Extension
Strawberry Spinach Salad
4 cups fresh baby spinach
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 can (11 ounces) mandarin oranges, drained
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
½ cup fat-free raspberry yogurt
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
In a large bowl, combine the spinach, strawberries and mandarin oranges. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and vinegar. Whisk in yogurt. Put almonds and dressing on salad just before serving.
Uncooked Strawberry Jam
2 cups crushed strawberries
4 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin
3/4 cup water
To prepare fruit-Sort and wash fully ripe berries. Drain. Remove caps and stems; crush berries.
To make jam-Place prepared berries in a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, mix well, and let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Dissolve pectin in water and boil for 1 minute. Add pectin solution to berry-and-sugar mixture; stir for 3 minutes. Pour jam into freezer containers or canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch space at the top. Cover containers and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours or until jam has set.
Store uncooked jams in refrigerator or freezer. They can be held up to 3 weeks in a refrigerator or up to a year in a freezer. Makes 5 or 6 half-pint jars.
Sandra R. Cain is the Bladen County Extension director. She can be reached at email@example.com or 910-862-4591.