For me, nothing says “summer is here!” quite like that first-of-the-season strawberry shortcake. Of course, I’ll buy strawberries at the grocery store throughout the year when they look and smell good. They’re nutritious and are one fruit most of my family will almost always say yes to. Nevertheless, I’m invariably disappointed in the texture and flavor of the off-season strawberries. The first local, in-season ones, bought at a farmer’s market or harvested fresh at a pick-your-own farm, nicely ripe and firm and juicy, make me so happy!
It appears that I’m not alone in my love of this spring/early summer fruit. Americans eat an average of three-and-a-half pounds of fresh strawberries each per year.
Strawberries are a superstar in the nutrition and health categories too. Not only are strawberries loaded with antioxidants that can help reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease, but they’re also loaded with fiber and vitamin C.
Maybe one of the reasons strawberries are dear to many is because the actual growing season is fairly short. In Ohio, the ripening season of June-bearing strawberry cultivars ranges from late May to the end of June. Right now is prime strawberry time in our state.
As a child, I can remember rushing out to my grandmother’s garden to get the ripened berries before the birds beat us to them. I loved the guilty pleasure of popping a ripe berry, fresh off the vine, into my mouth before we ever got them inside to wash and prepare.
Choosing good strawberries is relatively simple because generally if they smell fantastic, they’ll taste fantastic. Always pick the plumpest and most fragrant berries. They should be firm, bright, and fresh looking with no mold or bruises, and bright green caps (stems) that are fresh looking and fully attached. Berries should be dry and clean; usually medium to small berries have better eating quality than large ones.
For best flavor, do not wash the strawberries until you are ready to eat or use them. Moisture is the enemy when it comes to storing strawberries. Leave the caps on the strawberries until ready to eat or use in your recipes. As strawberries taste best at room temperature, remove from the refrigerator approximately 1 hour before they are to be used.
Store fresh strawberries in a colander in the refrigerator. This allows the cold air to circulate around them. Do not cover them.
While fresh, ripe strawberries are delicious all on their own, this versatile fruit can also be used in a number of recipes. Here are a few of my favorites:
Deviled Strawberries -- This recipe features the strawberries in their natural condition. With the addition of mascarpone cheese and Bellisari’s Balsamic Shallot & Black Garlic Spread, fresh strawberries become tasty, sophisticated hors d'oeuvres.
Basil Cupcakes With Strawberries, Balsamic Shallot And Black Garlic Sauce -- Strawberries also work well in baked goods like pies or these cupcakes. In this recipe, sweet and savory make for a delicious dessert!
No matter how you prefer your strawberries, now is the time to get the best ones. Don’t miss out. Visit a farm or farmer’s market before the end of the month to get your fill of one of nature’s most tasty treats. Happy summer from all of us at Bellisari’s!