Everything You Need to Know About Strawberries
Once upon a time, shoppers in Ontario were only able to delight in fresh strawberries for a few short weeks in early summer. However, now “Everbearing” strawberry plants produce fruit throughout an entire growing season – beginning in spring, with intermittent crops throughout summer and early fall. While many of us love strawberry picking and the local bounty, today we can enjoy fresh strawberries all year long as well, thanks to imports from warmer climates.
Eating strawberries fresh is a treat, but these vibrant berries are also very versatile and are widely used in all types of recipes including desserts, preserves, smoothies, salads and salsas.
How to Select and Store Strawberries
Choose strawberries that are bright in colour, plump, and still have their green leaves attached. Avoid berries that are moldy, discoloured, soft or shriveled. Also, look for ones with a bright green stem; ones that are brown denote a berry that is no longer fresh. To tell if strawberries are sweet, give them a smell – perfectly ripened strawberries will have a sugary and fragrant scent.
It is recommended that strawberries are kept in the clear plastic container they are sold in from the store. Alternatively, store your strawberries in a single layer, unwashed, in a paper towel-lined container in the refrigerator. They should last for three to five days, but the quicker you can consume them the better.
To freeze strawberries: purchase them when in season, buy extra and freeze them. Spread washed and hulled strawberries in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid, about 30 minutes (this freezes them individually so they won’t stick together). Then, transfer them to an airtight container or freezer bag and store frozen for up to 3 months.
How to Prepare Strawberries
Strawberries are very absorbent so to clean them, it’s best to rinse them under cold water, rather than submerge them in a bowl of water. Once that is done, quickly and gently pat dry before hulling. Hulling means to remove the cap of the strawberry – the leafy green stem and white flesh just under the stem. A paring knife (small knife) is the best tool to use for this job. To help them last longer, wash your berries just before you eat them.
Yield: 1 pint strawberries = 1 ½ – 2 cups sliced
- Making a strawberry pie? Make sure your berries are very dry first. The best way to dry strawberries for this type of application, is to leave them in a colander lined with a paper towel for half an hour or so.
- If you want to get your kids involved, use a plastic straw to hull your berries. Just push the straw through the berry, from the bottom to the top. It does waste a slight bit of the berry but it’s a fun knifeless little job for kids to do.
- To make chopped strawberries extra juicy, toss them with a little sugar, stir, and set aside for a few minutes. This technique is called macerating.
- Size isn’t what determines how sweet a berry is, but how long it hangs on the plant does. Once plucked, it no longer ripens and slowly begins to lose its freshness. The longer it stays connected the plant the sweeter the berries will be.
Strawberries Go Well With
Produce: apples, bananas, blackberries, blueberries, ginger, kiwi, lemon, limes, mango, melon, nectarines and peaches, oranges, pears, pineapple, raspberries, rhubarb, lettuce and spinach, watermelon
Herbs & Spices: basil, mint, cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom, and chilli
Dairy: ice cream, cream cheese, sour cream, crème fraiche, cream, milk, whipped cream, and soft and mild cheeses
Other: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, sugar, graham crackers, grand mariner, rum, custard, champagne, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, oats, red and white wine, balsamic vinegar and honey
Strawberry Serving Ideas
- Strawberries can be used in many different ways. They may be eaten whole, sliced or crushed. Strawberries are an excellent addition to fruit salads, ice cream, and sorbets.
- Strawberries are also used to decorate appetizers and cheese platters, or even in a beautiful strawberry cobb salad.
- Why not try making a savoury strawberry recipe with our strawberry glazed pork chops and spinach salad, a satisfying spring supper to serve to friends.
- To really wow your dinner guests, try your hand at making a strawberry fan or chocolate strawberry tuxedo.
- For a simple but delicious treat, wash and hull strawberries, scoop out some of the flesh and fill with mascarpone cheese mixed with a little lemon zest. This makes an impressive appetizer or dessert.
- Strawberries are perfect in jam or jelly, and taste great with fresh basil and aged balsamic vinegar. One of Produce Made Simple’s favourite contributors, Amy Bronee is a preserving expert. Try her strawberry jam recipes; either with or without pectin.
- Take the classic shortcake dessert and give it a twist in this strawberry shortcakes with sour cream.
- Families with little girls may be familiar with the children’s book, Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink, where the main character tries to make pink lemonade. Make sure you don’t follow her recipe! Try this delicious Strawberry Basil Lemonade instead.
- Citrus halibut with strawberry relish is an elegant, simple and fresh meal you can make on the grill.
- Kick back with some of these strawberry watermelon mojitos that will hit the sweet spot without being overloaded with sugar.
- Overnight oats are the perfect solution for starting your day healthy when your mornings are too busy to cook breakfast.
- Quick, simple and tasty is exactly what these yummy individual strawberry cheesecakes are…not to mention perfect for entertaining. You can even try experimenting with different types of cookies. I love chocolate covered digestive cookies crumbled at the bottom!
- When they are ripe and very sweet, they can be eaten raw with yogurt or ice cream, with fresh cream, or sprinkled with icing sugar. They are also delicious dipped in chocolate fondue.
- When strawberries are overly ripe they can be used in pies, cookies, mousses, soufflés, flans, smoothies, puddings, and cakes.
According to the Canadian Nutrient File, 100g of strawberries contain 98% of vitamin C, 11% of folate, 9% of fibre (2.2 g), 5% of magnesium, 4% of potassium, 4% of iron, and 26 µm of lutein an antioxidant!